Words & Pictures – Ange Cobham / Cobspix Photography
Beth Hart, is something of an enigma. Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, she rose to fame with the release of her 1999 single “LA Song (Out of This Town)” from her second album ‘Screamin’ for My Supper’. She’s done tremendously well, around the world and attracts one of the most diverse audiences you’re ever likely to see at a concert. It doesn’t seem to matter what your musical tastes are, Beth Hart brings something to the table to suit the most difficult of palates. With multiple platinum selling albums and some seriously good collaborations with Joe Bonamassa, there’s way more to come from her. As such, this was a gig I was really looking forward to and a big gear change from my more recent shoots.
I arrived early to catch the support act – Connor Selby, who has been hailed as one of the brightest talents on the UK Blues scene. To promote his new self titled album Connor put together an acoustic set to open the evening. The tracks were delivered very emotionally and his soulful voice went well with each track, full of heartfelt lyrics. Connor was voted as “Young Artist of The Year” at the UK Blues Awards for the last 3 consecutive years and is nominated for “Acoustic Act of The Year” for 2023, and it was clear to see why as he performs for the crowd. Each track was full of elegance, timeless blues sounds, and his set ended with the beautiful “Emily”. He truly shines when playing in a stripped back form and personally I could listen to his voice all day. The sky is the limit for this young blues artist.
The time then arrived, Beth walked on to the stage to huge applause from the all seated crowd, and what a perfect venue this was to host this Grammy-nominated American blues, rock, soul and jazz artist. Hart opened with a song she announced helped her through lock down, which she performed solo on the piano. Already the place was in complete silence as the audience took in the beauty of her voice and playing. A cover of Patti LaBelle’s “Walk Around Heaven” saw her jump off stage for a walkabout through the crowd. This was a lovely personal touch and the fans clearly loved this as Beth exchanged fist pumps with some and even sat with her arm round one lucky fan, there were smiles all around [Especially from him!]. For the whole show, Beth’s powerful unique vocals rung out around the venue, pure and simple. The deep soulful track “Tell Her You Belong to Me” was next taken from her 2015 album “Better Than Home” and looking round, there were already smiles beaming from the crowd, as well as Beth. You can see what performing live means to her and that enthusiasm carried on throughout the show.
Hart chatted lots in-between songs and before one song, she announced the reason for a bamboo stick she was holding in her hand, amusingly telling fans it was to help her stop smoking and that she hasn’t smoked for 2 years. Cue a loud cheer of support from the audience, which was really well deserved. For the next track “Delicious Surprise” fans were encouraged to join in the vocals taking turns with Beth. I am a Led Zeppelin fan and Beth’s latest release is a Zep covers album, so I was very happy to hear some played during the show with “When the Levee Breaks/Dancing Days” showcasing her talent with a fantastic performance. After the next track “Good as it Gets” Hart told of how this was played by the BBC and they didn’t realise there was swearing in it until too late. There was an occasional F-bomb in there and Beth laughed as she told the crowd “I laughed my ass off” (How I love this woman’s humour) Next up Beth introduced the track “Spirit of God” and how it is to do with a church she used to go to where there were lots of happy dancing people in big open spaces. Yet another display of Hart’s tremendous vocals in this fast paced song after which she played the last note and jumped off the piano to go and hug her drummer Bill Ransom.
I just want to mention the band at this point who were a fantastic accompaniment with Bill, Jon Nichols on guitar displaying some fabulous solos and the cool, talented Tom Lilly on bass. They then ramped back up for “War in My Mind” which was a truly brilliant powerful performance involving breath-taking piano playing, heavy bomb like sounds from the band, before the pace then slowed for “I’ll Take Care of You” a Bobby Blue Band cover.
Next was one of my faves, “Bad Woman Blues” a fantastic powerhouse tune paired with bold lyrics. Beth then took centre stage to sit on a low stool and puts on a Unicorn jumper, much to the crowd’s amusement, which she wore lovingly for her niece and went on to say how the next song was about the first house where her and her husband Scott lived “The Ugliest House on The Block” and my favourite line in this is “Get yer ass off my lawn and f*ck off!” This as you might imagine, got a lot of laughs. Just when you thought this incredible show couldn’t get any better, Beth took to the piano again and announced a request from a fan, before singing “Leave the Light on” to absolute perfection. It was the most moving thought provoking song I have heard live. At the end, fans were on their feet and the applause was extra loud and long for what they had just experienced. Visibly emotional, Beth acknowledged the crowd and gave us a show that was from the heart.
Beth introduced Tommy back to the stage to play the upright bass for the next track, telling fans she has worked with him for 29 years! “Without Words in The Way” They were then joined again by Ransom and Nichols for a set of acoustic tracks including “Sugar Shack” “Baby Shot Me Down” and “Fat Man” which was about a skinny man in a huge coat packed with drugs walking about a park.
Ransom showed some brilliant percussion talent with his rainmaker gadgets and drum brushes, along with Hart’s growls and scat singing, this set of songs was a nice addition to the show. “A Sunday Kind of Love” was inspired by Etta James who Hart grew up listening to, and recommended her live work which best displayed her talent. This song was a beautiful tribute. The encore rounded off the evening with a fantastic cover of Zeppelin’s “No Quarter/Babe I’m Gunna Leave You” Huge cheers at the end of what was a memorable night.
What a truly mesmerising show! Beth isn’t your average musician, she is a captivating powerhouse of emotion and talent which leaves audiences breathless. You need to experience it to understand.
Walk Around Heaven (Patti LaBelle cover)
Tell Her You Belong to Me
When the Levee Breaks / Dancing Days
Good as It Gets
Spirit of God
I’ll Take Care of You (Bobby “Blue” Bland cover)
War in My Mind
Bad Woman Blues
The Ugliest House on the Block
Leave the Light On
Without Words in the Way
Baby Shot Me Down
A Sunday Kind of Love (Louis Prima and His Orchestra cover)
No Quarter / Babe I’m Gonna Leave You