A Updated

Simply the best female Rock vocalist I’ve seen in over forty-years of gig-going

City Hall, Sheffield - 11 March 2023

Support this evening was by way of Provogue/Mascot label mate Connor Selby, accompanied by rhythm guitarist Joe Anderton (who looked like he’d just stepped out the late sixties/early seventies). Selby belies his tender years and if you were to close your eyes, you would imagine someone twice his age playing and singing the Blues. The songs and style were both very relaxing with ‘The Deep End’ and I Shouldn’t Care’ being highlights, both included as bonus tracks on the Deluxe Edition of his newly released self-titled album. Selby has a beautiful, laid-back way of playing the Blues. One to watch.

Setlist: Falling In Love Again / If You’re Gonna Leave Me / The Deep End / I Shouldn’t Care / Emily

Disappointingly, Sheffield City Hall was only two-thirds full when Beth Hart and her band took to the stage. There may have been some empty seats due to the adverse weather conditions, and fans choosing not to travel. Indeed, had this show been twenty-four hours earlier, I would have missed it myself due to snow. That said, I can well imagine if there had only been one or two in the audience, Beth Hart would have put on the same emotionally charged performance.

The strange choice of intro-music came by way of ‘Boats ‘n’ Hoes’, which the Californian songstress was quick to tell those in attendance was from the hilarious film ‘Step Brothers’. From the very moment Hart hit the stage she had the Sheffield crowd spellbound. Initially, she prowled around the stage, never missing a note for over two hours, from set opener ‘Love Gangster’ to the encore of ‘Thankful’. Following the opening number, Hart wasted no time in introducing her talented band, Jon Nichols (guitar), Bill Ransom (drums), and Tom Lilly (bass). She continued to thank and reference them throughout the whole evening; it was clearly obvious that she sees them as close friends and not just merely co-workers.

During ‘Delicious Surprise’ the charismatic Hart encouraged the crowd to sing along; we didn’t need asking twice. The lady from Los Angeles is known for her openness and honesty concerning her addictions and mental health. This evening she admitted she still takes one of her medications to keep her on the straight and narrow, but had to get off the others. She went on to say how she’d initially been hesitant about recording music from such a legendary band as Led Zeppelin, but in a moment of inspiration decided to go for it. If you’ve not heard it already, I can highly recommend you listen to ‘A Tribute To Led Zeppelin’, which she released last year. Also, hats off to (Roy Harper), sorry, I meant the sound engineer, who produced an amazing sound throughout the whole set, highlighted by the phenomenal drum sound on ‘When The Levee Breaks’, that also segued into another Zep classic ‘Dancing Days’.

Four songs in and the alluring front woman took to the piano for the first time in the evening for ‘I’ll Take Care of You’, taken from the 2011 album ‘Explain’, which she recorded with guitar legend Joe Bonamassa. Ironically, on a day when the main headline news was ‘Match Of The Day’s’ Gary Lineker’s altercation with the BBC, Hart told of her own exchange with The Beeb, as they had initially been unaware of the F-bomb within her first hit UK single ‘Good As It Gets’! Fortunately, she offended no-one in South Yorkshire, although she did go on later to say that her husband and road manager Scott Guetzkow had told her off recently for cursing too much!

Hart explained that her rendition of ‘Spirit Of God’ was played fast to represent the fun, Baptist-style church. The latter was juxtaposed to the excellent ‘Bad Woman Blues’, which feature the fabulous lyrics “I’m not your mama, I’m not your wife”, which she certainly is not. In fact, she looks more like Belinda Carlisle’s naughty niece! The lady from Los Angeles certainly is the definition of wearing your heart on your sleeve with her honesty and integrity, which permeates through every inch of her being and her songs too. None more so than ‘War In My Mind’, where she talked about the assistance, she received from a Korean pastor but was then horrified when the said pastor decided to leave her parish and return home to Hawaii. She unashamedly confessed to being a drama queen.

Like many, I felt a lump in my throat during ‘Sister Heroine’, which Beth dedicated to her blood brother (also selling merchandise), her niece Sharon, and the main protagonist of the song itself, her sadly departed sister Sharon. ‘Fire On The Floor’ upped the tempo again, before a solo performance of ‘Ugliest House On The Block’. Throughout the evening Hart was blowing through bamboo sticks, which were aids in helping to quit smoking.

She recounted how she grew up in Los Angeles but initially hated it, blaming the City of Angels for all her problems; however, having moved to Birmingham, Alabama she realised that she was in fact the problem. It resulted in ‘L.A. Song (Out Of This Town)’, a song that garnered Hart her first radio play. This evening’s solo recital also included a snippet of her own classic ‘Leave The Light On’. She was then joined by Lily on upright bass for ‘Woman Down’, whilst ‘Without Words In The Way’ saw drummer Ransom and guitarist Nichols re-join their bandmates to play as a Skiffle-style ensemble, which continued with the brilliant ‘Sugar Shack’; all three tracks coming from her sensational 2019 opus ‘War In My Mind’. ‘Can’t Let Go’ had a marvellous solo from Nichols, who played the humble guitar hero throughout, whilst the Bill Withers’ cover ‘For My Friend’ was dedicated to the sadly departed legend himself.

Two hours simply flew by, and the main set was brought to a rousing conclusion with further Zeppelin classics ‘No Quarter’ and ‘Babe I’m Gonna Leave You’. The vocal performance on the latter was staggering to say the least. The four musicians left the stage to rapturous applause. A few minutes later, Hart returned with guitarist Nichols for a one-song encore, ‘Thankful’. She asked her guitarist not to make her cry; he failed! I’m sure she’d have played on for another few hours if it wasn’t for the venue curfew.

On record/CD Hart is divine, on DVD/video she’s amazing, but live in the flesh, she is just extraordinary. Twenty percent Eta, twenty per cent Janis, twenty percent Adele, twenty percent Amy, twenty percent Stevie, and one hundred per cent Beth! Simply the best female Rock vocalist I’ve seen in over forty-years of gig-going.

Setlist:- Love Gangster / Delicious Surprise / When The Levee Breaks / Dancing Days / I’ll Take Care Of You / Good As It Gets / Spirit Of God / Bad Woman Blues / War In My Mid / Sister Heroine / Ugliest House On The Block / L.A. Song (Out Of This Town) / Leave The Light On / Woman Down / Without Words In The Way / Sugar Shack / Can’t Let Go / For My Friend / No Quarter / Babe I’m Gonna Leave You

Encore: Thankful

Review by: Mark Donnelly
Photographs courtesy of: Mal Whichelow

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