By Chyrisse Tabone, Rock At Night
Venue: Eventim Apollo-Hamersmith, London-February 8, 2020
Rock At Night has been a long-time fan and supporter of Beth Hart– and even had the opportunity to interview her at Baloise Session, Basel, Switzerland in October 2019. Having personally followed her career, I had yet to see her live, so the opportunity to cover her performance at the Eventim Apollo, London, was particularly special.
The evening began at 8 p.m. with Kris Barras on acoustic guitar, with support by producer/musician Josiah J. Manning on guitar. For 30 minutes, Barras treated the crowd to acoustic versions of songs like “Heart On Your Sleeve” and “What You Get.” A real crowd-pleaser was a cover of Allman Brothers “Midnight Rider”, which had the crowd toe-tapping and singing along. Barras ended the set with his rockin’ single “Hail Mary”.
After an intermission, Beth Hart emerged from the rear of the venue, wearing a long white flowy wrap dress, singing “There In Your Heart,” while making her way to the stage, and stopping to hug people along the way. It was a nice, warm introduction to the concert, which included sets of songs, ranging from deep soulful ballads (“Baddest Blues”, “War in my Mind”) to feisty blues rock (“Bad Woman Blues”, “Sugar Shack”) and even a nod to Latin music (“Spanish Lullabies”). The evening’s set included songs from her ninth solo album War In My Mind (2019), highlighting Hart’s skill as a songwriter who is not afraid to display her vulnerability to the world.
I was mesmerized and in awe of Beth Hart’s voice, which is a mixture of power, texture, and nuances that hearken Janis Joplin (she did portray her in the off-Broadway production of Love, Janis) and the artistry of chanteuse Billie Holiday. Hart gripped the mic stand, squatted on the stage, traded glances with longtime drummer Bill Ransom and guitarist Jon Nichols, displaying both sex appeal and sheer rawness. One could feel her vulnerability and authenticity as she spoke between songs about her devoted husband/tour manager Scott Guetzkow, mental illness, bouts of alcoholism, and fear of falling back to old habits after a pastor was leaving for another church appointment.
As Hart played the piano and sang solo, one could see her eyes watering, and a real display of emotion as she revisited her past in “Sister Dear” and “Mama This One’s for You.” Continuing with the autobiographical theme, she explained how she finally came to terms with her father leaving the family for another woman, being estranged, and later reconnecting, by singing “Tell Her You Belong to Me.” This song in particular pulled at my heart strings for personal reasons.
Beth Hart continued her ballads with Tom Lily on standup bass, playing “Without Words In the Way”. The band reconvened for an acoustic set with Ransom on cajon and Nichols and Hart on acoustic guitar with “Baby Shot Me Down” and “If I Tell You I Love You.” Hart surprised her band by suggesting they acoustically perform the Etta James song “I’d Rather Go Blind”. Nobody can evoke the pain and emotion of this song like Beth!
As the concert unfolded, while sitting in my seat, I was awestruck by the sheer unabashed honesty and authenticity of Beth Hart. Oozing with vulnerability, she clearly wears her heart on her sleeve. A talented lyricist and songwriter, she has “lived the blues” and conveys pain and emotion in every note. Watching her hug and interact with band members and seeing her live, Hart gives every ounce of herself on stage as a measure of catharsis. All I can say is “respect”…..what a woman!
There in Your Heart
Close to My Fire (Slackwax cover)
Rub Me for Luck
Chocolate Jesus (Tom Waits cover)
Bad Woman Blues
I’ll Take Care of You (Bobby “Blue” Bland cover)
Good as It Gets
War in My Mind
Tell Her You Belong to Me
Mama This One’s for You
Baddest Blues (Beth solo on piano)
Without Words in the Way
Baby Shot Me Down
If I Tell You I Love You (Melody Gardot cover)
I’d Rather Go Blind (Etta James cover)
Woman Down (Beth solo on piano)