Updated: Mar 14
An astounding performance in London from the best blues vocalists of her generation.
EVENTIM APOLLO HAMMERSMITH
8th February 2020
Dressed in white for her London concert, Beth Hart embodied the idea of the femme fatal: a seductive and mysterious woman who reels in her admirers and leads them into uncharted and dangerous territories. In the case of Hart, it's though her siren song and her turbulent storytelling that she seduces and enraptures the listener. It's this talent that has made her the best blues singer of her generation, and an artist at the very top of her game. There's no doubt that she can hook you in with whatever she sings, and have you doing her bidding in just a few bars – be that a jubilant celebration of life, or crushing your heart with the brutal honesty of her music. There's also a hint of danger from the characters she presents like the sassy woman in Bad Woman Blues or the prostitute in Sugar Shack.
She begins her show by walking through the auditorium singing There In Your Heart, interacting with the crowd as she goes. This isn't for effect: it's a vital connection between audience and performer that is needed to support each other through this exchange of experiences.
Attending a Beth Hart concert is also like attending group therapy. Her candid expressions about her mental illness, her love for her husband, making peace with her sister, or wanting to kill her stepmother, are all laid out, uncensored for the world to see. It's this journey of trauma, pain, love and forgiveness that makes Hart such an engaging and masterful performer. It's not just the material to sings, and her exceptional songwriting skills, it's how she delivers each song. Hart is an artist who doesn't just go through the motions, every time she sings about the heartache, it comes to the surface as something all too real and palpable. Her audiences resonate with this fragility too. Whether they have been through similar journeys, or are just along for the ride, it's this sort of rapport she has with her fans that doubles the power of her concerts.
Close To My Fire, Rub Me For Luck and a cover of Tom Waits' Chocolate Jesus all feature in the first full-band section of the show. Then we get to the gritty stuff as she takes to the piano alone. War In My Mind, the title track from her new album, is a song about the fear of mental illness and returning to the darkness inside. Sister Dear is a powerful tale of forgiveness, written for her sister who was in the audience. Hart also talks openly between songs, sharing intimate details about how these songs came to fruition. It's heavy stuff, but we hang on every word.
After the ballads, the band return to give us an acoustic section. Hart's favourite part of the show also included going off book with an impromptu paired down version of I'd Rather Go Blind. The musicians may have been a little hesitant to deviate from the plan, but the result was a simply astonishing performance forged from the trust between an artist and her fans.
Woman Down made an impassioned encore. By the end this certainly wasn't a woman down, it was a celebration of resilience by a someone who has shaken off her demons, and risen gloriously. With a few minutes to spare before curfew, Hart and the audience were desperate for another song – I think everyone would have been happy to go on all night or do a whip-round to pay any fines for going overtime. However, the concert ended in a perfect way: with a captivating and honest performer wanting to give more but resisting, and the audience firmly in the palm of her hand.
Joining Beth Hart on tour again as support is Kris Barras. This time Kris performs as an acoustic duo with his bandmate Josiah J Manning. The short and sweet set doesn't really give time for him to show off usual flash guitar skills and to really let rip. It is enough time, however, to show his talent as a songwriter and demonstrate his versatility with some slide guitar and fingerpickin'. If this was your first introduction to Kris Barras, check him out with his band or Supersonic Blues Machine - you won't be disappointed.