Beth Hart / Colin James - Royal Festival Hall, London (UK) - 23 November 2016
Beth Hart's London show is sold out and I had a great overview from above, sitting on the balcony of the impressive Royal Festival Hall. The big stage was set up perfectly: guitar amps on the left side, drums in the middle, bass amps on the right side and a grand piano spotlighted on the front right. The massive carpet on the floor and candles on the piano created a familiar living room atmosphere, with a touch of a romantic elegance.
Colin James opened the show with some brilliant handmade acoustic Blues Rock. His warm and jazzy voice, combined with the perfect guitar playing from himself and others, reminded me of solid 70s music in the style of Bryan Adams or Jeff Healey. Presenting some of his songs from his new album 'Blue Highways', Colin was definitely a very enjoyable opening act, worthy of checking out more.
Within ten minutes the crew set up the stage for Beth. Then finally: Lights off, the band entered the stage, the drums began to play. Beth wasn't on stage yet but when she started to sing, everybody stood up and searched for her. From the very first note she sang on her beautiful version of Billie Holiday's 'Don't Explain' I felt in another world, back into 50s Soul music. Suddenly I could see her from above the balcony; she walked slowly from the back through the audience towards the stage, wearing a sparkling golden long shirt and black leather leggings, which suited perfectly her deep and outstanding voice.
(photo by John Bull)
After climbing on stage it was getting hot and Beth took us into the world of Latin music with the song 'If I Tell You, I Love You'. With some fiery and spicy tones in between, she made us all speechless, not knowing how her voice is able to create such incredible sounds.
Then she got the audience moving and clapping with the song 'For My Friends', a track that reminds me of good old classic Rock music in style of Led Zeppelin. Following that she tripped joyful to her grand piano, sat down on her stool, smiled to the audience and asked:" Are you having fun? Good, could we please all stand up for the next song? Let's move our feet." Then she looked at her band, and without speaking through the microphone you could her loud voice saying, "C'mon guys, let's hit that shit!" Then she started with the awesome piano playing of her lively burlesque-style song 'Bang Bang Boom Boom' and got the audience dancing.
Next she began with the slow blues song she did together with Joe Bonamassa, 'I'll Take Care of You'. A moment where you just want to lie back and feel the soul of her touching voice, combined with the perfectly sensitive playing of her amazing band. And then, this spectacular moment when it is getting quiet towards the end and for a few seconds you think the song is done. But then Beth's voice exploded with some unbelievable powerful high notes and her guitar player Jon Nichols blew me away with an amazing solo.
(photo by John Bull)
As if your emotions weren't already on a rollercoaster, she introduced her next song. Her band left the stage, the lights went down, candles flickered on the black grand piano and Beth's voice went down and became very calm. I immediately knew I had to get my tissues out of my bag for 'Sister Heroine', a song from one of her previous albums which describes best what this lady has already gone through. She got over a drug addiction but sadly her own sister died due to a heroine abuse. God knows how many times Beth has already sung this song. Maybe she knows now how to handle her tears but still you can feel how she had to struggle with the pain. It was one of the most emotional performances I have ever seen. Along with many other listeners, I couldn't stop crying.
Thank God she didn't stop with that touching feeling and followed up with her gorgeous ballad 'St Teresa'. Beth got into church a few years ago to get sober, which made her trust in God. Two days before the London show Beth received a cross from a woman as a present, with a picture of St. Teresa kissing that cross. She seemed to be honoured and happy about getting such a holy cross. Even her performance of this song had something magical and holy. The whole room felt connected to her spirituality and she finished the song with a whispering: "Thank you so much, I love you guys!" To contine this strong emotion, she got back her band back on stage and dedicated the next song to one of the producers of 'Better Than Home, who died of cancer. It was definitely a "good day to cry".
As energetic as her singing was her rhythm guitar playing on 'Today Came Home'. What makes her so likeable on stage is her self-confidence and naturalness. She started to play the first verse and just before the band wanted to come in she screamed: "Oh shit, wait, I lost my pick", earning a big laugh from the audience. This song was a good choice to bring us back smoothly to her powerful songs before she rocked the stage with 'Fat Man'. She didn't have someone special in her mind when she wrote this song but maybe she suspected that Trump would become the next president. She was obviously a bit ashamed of him, but again she got us laughing with: "Dear God, may you help that motherfucker."
(photo by Laurence Harvey)
I guess many people felt quite connected to what Beth has gone through, when her dad left the family for another woman. Whilst she was sitting on that little chair, she shared her experience with the next ballad, 'Tell Her You Belong To Me'. The suffering in her voice made everyone speechless before she hit the keys on the piano again and delighted us with her latest single 'Love Is A Lie'
After the band left the stage again for the following song, I hoped to have some tears left after I had already cried a lot. Beth explained: "It took me 40 years to realise how good I had it with my beautiful mom. I blamed her for so many things, you know, I blamed a lot of people for my shit. But I am so thankful to have her and I needed to write a song for her and it came up so quickly in my mind. So I wrote 'Mama This One's For You'. During the whole concert Beth reminded us to be happy and pleased about all the good and little things in life, and she transmitted simple but powerful messages in her songs.
Then she introduced the last song, maybe one of her best songs ever, from the same- titled album 'Leave The Light On'. Beth was in her early 20s when she struggled with a drug addiction. Not loving herself and not knowing how to handle her life, she quit everything for a year. Whilst she was alone, she came up with that song and called her manager to tell him she wanted to try to do some music again. Thank God she did. "I wanna love and I wanna live, but I don't know much about it. I don't know what to do, can the damage be undone?" How can a woman be so though? It really makes you think about your life and you realise what really matters. "Life teaches us to live and I am so happy for all I have," Beth tells us..
(photo by Laurence Harvey)
As encores Beth played 'Fire On The Floor' from her recent album and a great interpretation of 'Rather Go Blind' to end this breath-taking show.
Being support by her great band, Jon Nichols on guitar, Bill Ransom on drums and Bob Marinelli on bass, they played perfectly balanced on each song and with such a strong chemistry between each other that you can just tell this is a great team on stage. No matter which song they played, nothing sounded too much, all the gaps where filled perfectly and everyone seemed to be so relaxed and passionate. The sound and light suited perfectly to the atmosphere of each song.
Beth is not only a wonderful singer, songwriter and musician but also an inspiring ambassador of the heart. She involved us through all her feelings, from anger, love, pain, suffering, joy and she sparkles on stage with her charisma and her honesty. She turned the light on and spotlighted the beauty of music and life. She took us through a journey of her life, on a rollercoaster of emotions and left us speechless, wishing this concert would never end.
Beth Hart plays the Royal Albert Hall on Friday 4th May 2018.
Tickets are available at www.seetickets.com/event/beth-hart/royal-albert-hall/1047439