Beth Hart & Colin James
13th November 2016
For a variety of personal reasons I’ve hardly been to any gigs in 2016, and this was my first since SummerTyne in July…..so it was a big deal for me.
I’m sort of a fan of Beth Hart, having seen her at this venue twice previously but it was the opportunity to see Colin James that got me out of the house.
I love his latest (18th!) album Blue Highways so was a little bit excited when he trotted out in front of an already full auditorium, onto the stage alongside his friend and rhythm guitarist the hirsute ‘Chris.’
With a beaming smile the duo launched into a storming acoustic version of Ride With Me Tonight and the night was off to a rattling start.
As he changed guitars James told us that this was his first visit to the UK since 1991 when his band supported Robert Plant. With Chris still on acoustic Colin played the dirty end of the fret board on his electric to make Horn of Plenty actually sizzle.
I was in Blues Heaven for the next half hour as the duo flitted between tracks from the latest album and James’ back catalogue plus the native of Montreal dabbling with Celtic mysticism when he carefully slid Into the Mystic into the set, which really suited his own warm and sensitive voice.
Without the need for ‘loud’ James proved what an excellent guitarist he is, on both acoustic and electric; especially on a song called I Want You To Love Me (You Know It Pleases Me).
The 40 minutes flew by and as they left the stage there was even a couple of calls for “more” from the front of the Hall, which will hopefully bring him back with his band sometime soon.
During the break I treat myself to a cup of coffee and took the opportunity to ‘people watch,’ which was quite illuminating especially as only three years ago Beth Hart only drew about 300 people on her first visit and tonight nearly 1700! The new crowd appeared to be an eclectic mix of mature couples on a ‘nice night out,’ ageing Rock fans in band t-shirts, young hipsters and assorted music fans. Not what I’m used to at all.
The band came out and began a slow burner that evolved into Your Heart is as Cold as Night when Beth entered the Hall from the rear amid huge cheers, then sang her way to the front, glad-handing fans all of the way.
Now on stage Beth urged everyone to get on their feet and then launched into a Jazzy freestyle number that included a thrilling ‘scat’ in the middle; this was then followed by the slow and sultry Delicious Surprise; which more or less set the tone for the evening.
In the past I’ve compared the ‘rocking’ Ms. Hart to Tina Turner and she was; but tonight I was very pleasantly surprised to find Beth has ‘grown into her voice’ and isn’t like anyone else but Beth Hart. Her voice is truly amazing, smoky, individual, variable and most of all….hers.
Less of a surprise to me, but apparently to many around me Bet Hart can play the piano….no, seriously…..really play; almost Classical standard and so well songs like I’ll Take Care of You and Good Day To Cry Jazz-Blues crossover of the very highest standards.
At one stage she told us that “playing the piano was cathartic for her; for which she thanked her Mother,” then glided into a beautiful song for and about her Mother, Baddest Blues.
What I’ve always loved most about ‘live music’ is the opportunity to see and hear things that no one else in the world would witness. This happened a couple of times this evening; Beth actually messed up the beginning to a song and had to re-start it; and during the applause to another song she appeared to change the set list around, sending the band off stage before performing a staggeringly raw version of Close To My Fire with only her piano as accompaniment. The applause was deafening.
We got stories aplenty on the intros with Beth more than baring her heart and soul as she talked about her Mother, Father (Tell Her You Belong To Me was an absolute highlight and right from the very bottom of her heart) and sister……wow, Sister Heroine was not just spellbinding but heartbreaking at the very same time.
The set ended with an epic song (That I didn’t recognise!) during which Beth jumped off stage and again wandered up and down the aisles, high-fiving fans and even getting a kiss and cuddle from one guy; but still never missed a note.
The obligatory encore really amused me, scroll back a few paragraphs and you will see I once compared Beth to Tina Turner but has now moved into a new stratosphere…..guess what the first encore song was? Yep, Nutbush bloody City Limits! The rocker got the audience straight onto their feet and there they remained for another 15 minutes with the red hot Love is a Lie followed by Beth again sending the band offstage so she could sing the song she wrote for her husband Scotty, who was standing in the shadows. Unusually for a ‘show closer’ this song was as slow and moody as anything else this evening; but hearing her pour her heart in a song as she gently played the piano was truly mesmerising.
What a night! Beth Hart really is the new….Beth Hart and will be a household name very, very soon.