Bath nights at the best of times can be a bit meh! So, when one of the world’s greatest female vocalists comes to your local concert hall it’s a case of to hell with the bath, grab the camera and make for the door.
Beth Hart, probably better known to most as the voice alongside Joe Bonamassa, is so much more. With more layers than a healthy onion, Beth has graced the boards for many a year. With 9 solo albums and a further 3 collaborations with Joe Bonamassa under her trim belt, she certainly has been busy since ‘LA Song’ catapulted her into the mainstream back in 1999.
Tonight, she appears with her longstanding guitarist, and good friend, Jon Nichols, the band is completed with, Bob Marinelli on bass, and Bill Ransom sat at the back on the drums.
Supporting Beth tonight we have the amazing Kris Barras band. Not playing his usual powerful electric blues set, oh no, tonight he is stripped back and seated playing a much more sedate short acoustic set.
Kris sits centre stage with keys to his right, manned by Josiah J Manning, and a basic drum kit to his left flown by Will Beavis.
Playing a short set of six songs, Kris is relaxed and cool. Anyone who can rock a hipster beard, is covered in tats and plays a kick ass guitar is COOL! Oh, and did I mention he’s pretty good in the Octagon too.
Kicking off with ‘Heart on Your Sleeve,’ from the Lucky 13 album this young blues man immediately impresses with his gravelly voice as he gives his all to this opener, Southern Blues Rock at its finest as he sings to the crowd about having a head up your ass. Class! Then it’s straight into ‘I Got Time’ again from Lucky 13. This foot stomping number goes down well with the Beth Hart fans here to see the support act.
Now it’s banter time, a quick plug of the new album, The Divine and Dirty available at the merch stand and we’re off again. ‘Propane’ features next, a stripped back version of this bluesy ballad from the new album, delivered with the flair and tightness expected from this class act who’s now on the same label as Trout, Shepherd and Bonamassa.
‘Hail Mary’ follows straight on, yet another from The Divine and Dirty, starting with a distinctive cowboy riff complete with slide, ‘we’re off telling stories that have never been told, crying Hail Mary but she won’t go‘. A great lyric that sounds real despite being acoustic. Still from the new album, ‘Watching Over Me’ is next. Introduced as a song dedicated to Kris’s late father who sadly passed away after a short battle with the evil that is Cancer. Citing him as the reason Kris picked up a guitar, this heartfelt ballad is delivered with emotion by the bucketful. Seeing Kris put his very heart and soul into this beautiful song just shows the bond he still has with his dear Dad. The standout song of the set in my book, simply beautiful. Kris, I’m sure he’s watching over you!
We finish the set off with the more up tempo ‘Rock & Roll Running Through my Veins’ from the album Lucky 13. This laid back song is a fitting end to an excellent if short set. Again, not afraid to lay into it Kris and the band knock this one out of the park.
Who’d have thought that a successful MMA, Muay Thai fighter could get up there and play the guitar and sing like that. As it says across his knuckle ‘BOOM’ This champ is here to stay!
Beth Hart almost runs onto the stage. This dynamo of energy is ready to go straight from the blocks, as she adjusts her mic the bad take their positions and she’s watching them, then whoosh we’re into the opening number. ‘Sinners Prayer’ from the 2011 JB collaboration album Don’t Explain. This slow lazy blues with distinctive slide guitar, eases that phenomenal voice into the night, the ridiculous vibrato cutting through while Hart is asking for mercy, Nichols’ slide playing shining through, a great start to the night.
With a set list comprising of some 20 songs, we’re in for a superlative show.
‘Delicious Surprise’ is next from Screamin’ For My Supper. This sees a relaxed Hart take to her knees at the front of the stage while she belts out this epic track. Getting the crowd to sing back to her is all too easy. The fans leap at the chance to sing along with their hero(ine).
As she’s about to get up a bunch of flowers are presented to her, a personal friend who is looking after her family whilst here in the UK and has been running them to the gigs, stands beneath Hart as they embrace.
Flowers next to the piano as we now have ‘If I Tell You That I Love You’ from yet another JB collaboration, the album Seesaw from 2013 this time. With its smoky French bar-room vibe. This jazz number shows hart controlling that powerhouse of a voice. The staccato ‘twang’ of Nichols’ guitar driving this seedy late-night bar room tune. Leaning next to the piano reinforces the late-night seediness.
‘Coca Cola’ has Hart sat at the piano telling us of her times living in LA and getting down to Santa Monica beach as often as possible, of discovering boys and saying they must taste of this popular beverage. An accomplished pianist, fans see her feet dancing away as she floats across the keys, eyes shut as she recalls the time that nibbling on a boy’s ear taste like Coca Cola.
A quick visit to Harts album 37 Days and we have that song which has Hart saying she’s ‘not the kind of woman that you want to take home,’ ‘One Eyed Chicken’ sees Hart having a bit of fun with the band as she belts out another outstanding vocal.
A set list change happens when she finishes ‘Lifts YuU Up,’ visibly hyper she crouches to read the set list and decides to pull in ‘Love Gangster’ ahead of ‘Them There Eyes.’ This sees Nichols changing his guitar back from the Strat just handed to him, back to the Telecaster. This has hart singing about looking for a Love Gangster and Grave Digger. Again, her vibrato features strongly in this slow bluesy number.
Hart has the uncanny ability to cross genre with effortless ease. Her voice is sensational in whatever format she takes on.
Back at the piano, Hart tells us of how she has never sung this song live. ‘Take it Easy on Me’ is Hart telling us about how scared she is, about how she isn’t that big strong confident woman that we see and that she wants people to think. Convinced by her friend Jackie to finally play it live, this is a beautiful song played on the piano. Hart shows her fantastic song writing ability in this ballad. This is the vulnerable Beth Hart, wearing her heart on her sleeve she gives this soul revealing song the control and respect that only she can. Delivered from the heart, the crowd stand when she’s finished.
Followed by yet another ballad from the piano. Hart introduces this one with a tribute to Scott, her husband. Talking about marriage vows she says that Scott had proven all that before the marriage. It’s been well documented before about Hart’s demons, suffice to say that you must live it to benefit from it. Hart is out the other side and all better for it.
As she plays along she suddenly throws her arms aloft, exclaiming ‘SHIT! JESUS CHRIST’ looking back down at the keys she declares she has forgotten how to play this part!
‘Caught Out in the Rain’ sees Hart alone, centre stage, a single spot, lights her up as Nichols picks away, Ransom taps out the timing on his sticks from afar. Hart is in a different place, she smoulders, as she stands at the microphone. Her voice is electric, hairs standing up on the back of your neck as she dissects your senses with the power and control of her delivery. Singing away from the mic, as has often been the case tonight, her control is masterful as she ‘scats’ like all the great Jazz singers before her. Make room for Beth, girls. A stand out song in the set without a doubt.
She says goodnight and walks off, dripping with emotion and, dare I mention it, sweat; the back of her sage green dress showing the effort she has put into tonight’s show.
A short break and she’s off again ‘Saved,’ ‘I used to smoke, I used to drink’ is a tongue in cheek song written about someone who is fast and loose but was saved and is now a preacher. Written by Leiber and Stoller and first recorded by LaVern Baker in 1960 it easily could have been written especially for Beth.
‘I Didn’t Come To Make Trouble’ is next up as an encore, this sees Hart back at the piano. Flying around the keys she continually impresses at how accomplished she is. Legs flailing around underneath it’s a wonder they aren’t in knots and covered in bruises. At one point, she asks the crowd to put their hands up, and they’re up before she can finish asking. The crowd are loving the extra Hart.
Show closer is ‘As Long as I Have a Song’, Hart has described this as her love-hate relationship with being a song writer, about being connected one minute and then suddenly it’s gone; writers block. A great song to finish with. Sat at the piano she plays this great ballad from the 2015 album Better than Home. ‘Pour me a tune, As blue as the moon, And I’ll get along, Just as long, As I have a song, And that is how I’ll Get along’.
The end of a fantastic night.
Beth Hart has the ability to cross genre, one moment, its rock, the next we’re in a seedy smoked filled Parisian jazz bar and then it’s off to a stripped back, back street blues café.
A phenomenal voice from a lady who has lived the life, fought her demon’s and bounced back bigger, stronger and better than ever. With a strong partner and faith, she has brought he amazing voice on the road for all to enjoy. If you haven’t already enjoyed this energetic powerhouse live, then do so before she commands huge prices, because she’s already worth every damn penny of the ticket price.
Words and photo’s: Manny Manson