To get to Carnegie Hall takes practice, but to get to the Albert Hall requires even more perseverance and is the apogee of any musician's career. Beth Hart has certainly earned her stripes, from performing on 3rd Street Promenade and dingy clubs to being nominated for a Grammy; and she's the real deal too. Her voice is huge, her stage presence is well assured, and she's magnetic to watch, yet she carries with her a humility and vulnerability to which we can relate. She is the perennial every-woman of modern music. Despite comparisons, she's more mellifluous than Janis Joplin, but just as unique and is easily the best blues singer of our epoch.
Her two-hour set opens with an acapella version of As Long as I Have a Song. As she makes her way down the aisle of the Albert Hall singing intimately to her audience, shaking their hands, engaging with them, it's clear that this is a performer who does not isolate herself from her fans: she embraces them. The Albert Hall is a massive building, it's easy to get lost in its labyrinthine passages, yet Beth Hart makes it feel as though she's singing in a place the size of Ronnie Scott's. It's this ability to draw her audience in like a close friend, to whisper secrets to them, to tell them of her innermost fears, desires, sorrows and hopes that have made her so popular.
The early part of the setlist is characteristically Beth Hart at her raunchy, bluesy best with Close To My Fire and Bang Bang Boom Boom epitomising her sound. Spirit of God hints at her survival from the dark passages in her life, but it's the emotion ladened second half of the CD that will cement Hart's abilities as a musician and a writer if you had any doubts. In between songs she talks candidly about her diagnosis with bipolar disorder, the love for her husband and her Mama, dedicating songs to them as the night goes on. Songs like Spiders in my Bed and Sister Heroine prove that she doesn't shy away from talking about her illness, her past drug addiction or her recovery and anything else she's left out is picked up in the lyrics of her songs. The Ugliest House on the Block is filled with courage and yet tinged with sadness. She lets her guard down on the emotional Take it Easy on Me and exposes her weaknesses, and she lets us know that she's not as tough as she makes out. It's cathartic for Hart and us as she sings about modern issues and problems in the most human of ways.
Aside from those intimate moments, there's that characteristic torrent of power in Love is a Lie and the devastating vocal that closes the show in Caught Out in the Rain. It's an emotional show for artist and audience alike. This intimacy doesn't quite come across on the CD, but the way the show has been filmed makes you feel as though you've some have intruded a private rumination, especially in those more reflective segments. Still, Beth Hart has drawn us in and allowed up to gather a glimpse of her that many artists strive to hide. The result is genuinely moving, and her experiences can only inspire you.
Early on in the set, she sings Good as it Gets, and that's a damn good way, to sum up this live show. As far as live performances go, this is the closest to perfection that you are likely to get.
Groupie rating 5/5