The London Palladium is a British institution. The iconic venue has been host to musicals, variety shows, and concerts. To be honest it would be easier to say who hasn't appeared on its proscenium arch stage; not to mention the British Royalty that has watched over proceedings. Tonight at the London Palladium we were in presence of more royalty: Beth Hart - the Queen of modern blues, could now be added to the wall of fame.
It's been three years since she played London, the last time being a few weeks before the pandemic forced venues to shut, so her performance tonight has been a long time coming. From the opening 'Baddest Blues' with Beth solo on the piano (the first of several solo spots tonight), to the full band numbers, Beth has a gift of creating an intimacy between her and the audience. She could be playing to five people or 50,000 and her relationship with the crowd would be the same. It's hard to put into words the experience you have from seeing Beth perform: it's almost religious.
I've had the privilege of seeing Beth perform several times and every time she manages to take you on a life-changing spin around the block (via the ugliest house, naturally) where she'll raise you up, tear your heart out, and then put it back together again. Her shows are not pseudo-heart-on-the-sleeve stuff, when Beth performs she is totally exposed, and entrusts her audience to watch her back, keep her secrets, and guard her soul. It's a form of musical Transubstantiation, and it's extraordinarily beautiful to behold.
Before bringing the band out she tells us that she's just getting over Covid, which is why she had to cancel her solo show the night before. Not that you'd even have a hint that she'd been feeling unwell; as always she was on fire.
After bringing the band out she launches straight into a cover of Led Zep's 'When the Levee Breaks/Dancing Days', taken from her outstanding Zeppelin cover's album.
In between songs, she tells candid stories that continue her journey as a storyteller and there's enough foul language to make Adele blush. Of course, this is all part of Beth Hart's raw charm.
'Tell Her You Belong To Me' is one of the few ballads in the set tonight, instead of tugging at your heartstrings, this show is all about having a good time and playing some rock n roll. 'Spirit of God and 'Bad Woman Blues' certainly keep the mood raw and upbeat. A cover of Tom Waits' 'Chocolate Jesus', (one of Beth's favourite songwriters) leads us into a moving tribute to the late Jeff Beck with 'Rub Me For Luck'.
Then comes the customary solo piano and acoustic section where things get a bit more intimate with songs like 'Leave the Light On', 'The Ugliest House on The block' and 'Isolation,' before bringing the band out again for an acoustic romp. 'Sugar Shack' with drummer, Bill Ransom, laying down some seriously lascivious rhythms, that had Beth moving in that slinky, animistic and mesmeric way she does.
Running close to curfew, there's no time for an encore – I'm sure she'd have gone on all night – so she dives straight into another Zeppelin cover, 'No Quarter/ Babe I'm Gonna Leave You' which has Beth writhing on the stage, consumed and overtaken by the power of the music in an extraordinary performance.
Once again Beth Hart's shows never fail to enthrall and leave you wanting more – let's hope that we don't have to wait another three years to witness her unique talent.
Review by Cathy Clark and Gerry Driver
Photos by Gerry Driver