Front and Center is Beth Hart’s first live album in 13 years; during that time she’s established herself as one the First Lady of blues fusion and performed at some of the most iconic venues around the world. Front and Center takes a step back to her early days playing in small clubs. Recorded in the bijou Iridium Jazz Club the album is so well put together, you’d have thought she was in an arena. However, when you watch the DVD, you realise that the venue is a prime space to experience Hart’s extraordinary talent.
The show alternates between low piano lead tracks to rockier outputs that span her career. Hart may not be front and centre herself, hidden behind her keyboard for most of the show, but this only enhances the confessional nature between audience and musician. The king is slydeco Sonny Landreth makes an appearance towards the end for a rip-roaring version of Can’t Let Go. But nothing is more magical than the moments where it’s Hart and her piano. Leave the Light On and As Long as I Have A Song being particular examples of her craft. Her versatility is brought out on sultry jazz tracks like the smokey Love Gangster and the sexy as hell Jazz Man. She steps out from behind the keyboard for Fat Man where her formidable rock chick persona comes to the fore. Isolation from the Immortal tackles her demons the intimate nature of the track draws more power from the performance in a small venue that would easily be lost in a larger one.
The big band stuff tears the roof off the 180 seat venue, but it’s those hushed moments when Hart is alone at the piano that really stands out.
Groupie Rating 5/5