ARCHIVE POST: Caught Live: Beth Hart, Philharmonic Hall Liverpool 3 May 2015

Ronnie writes: This post originally appeared on my previous music blog which is now offline. I will repost old content to the new blog as and when time permits.

Raw, emotive and utterly stirring. That’s what I’d like to say about all live gigs I see, and as a fan of rock/metal you’d think that most if not all gigs are like that. Then I saw Beth Hart at Liverpool Philharmonic and was reminded of exactly what a truly emotive live performance entails.

Beth Hart is one of those artists I have heard of, but not much by. I went along knowing nothing of her past and certainly nothing of her latest album ‘Better Than Home’, which this tour is in support of. So I was unprepared for what lay ahead, but before all that we had opening act Miles Graham to come. A singer/songwriter from Dublin, he came on stage accompanied only by a guitar player and was later joined by a female violinist and a male cellist. His music wasn’t really my cup of tea, a mellow sort of folk style but he delivered his material well and seemed genuinely thrilled to be performing on this stage. He and his colleagues got a generous reception from the Liverpool audience, but it would pale into insignificance compared to the reception the headliner would get later…

Candles were positioned all over the stage, on amplifiers, and on the piano Hart would play during the set and these were lit in preparation of the main event. The band appeared to rousing cheers and were soon followed by Hart herself, who brought the house down the moment she set foot on that stage. This is somebody who is clearly adored by her public. My initial impressions, seeing her with her hair partially tied up, and in a polka dot dress complete with boots, was that she resembled that auntie we’ve all had, who always dragged you up to dance at a family party when you were about 15. Such frivolous thoughts were banished once she stepped up and sang. This woman has some pipes! From first song to last, she had me (and this audience) captivated – this, despite the fact I knew virtually nothing about her beforehand. She can deliver a seductive growl or really unleash the fury; there were many times she’d stand holding the microphone very low away from her face, yet still shake the foundations of this newly-refurbished hall. Between songs, she was giving off tons of nervous energy; I’d been unaware of her well-documented battles with booze and drugs until now, but after having kicked the lot (something she credits husband/road manager Scott Guetzkow, part of the crew tonight, with helping her do) all I saw was a totally spellbinding performer. She even staged a walkabout into the auditorium during one number; happily high-fiving the front row then walking down one aisle to the back of the hall and up the other aisle back to the stage, all the while greeting punters and not missing a beat singing. One cheeky punter actually stopped her for a ‘selfie’ while she sang!

The music was very much blues-based but touched on many styles, hints of jazz and country alongside the blues shouting and at times venturing into full-on hard rock. Sometimes within the same song! Her band was top-notch; drummer Julian Rodriguez drove things along impeccably bringing both power and control. Well-supported by bassist Bob Marinelli, they laid a solid foundation for the two guitarists Jon Nichols and PJ Barth. Both guitar players were in sparkling form; never stepping on the singer’s toes but both were capable of shredding when required and just as importantly, backing right away when not. All of this combined to produce an extremely dynamic sound; when they wanted to they could be heavier than any so-called Metal band.

I knew nothing about Beth Hart before this show and although I still would struggle to name you any of her songs, I feel like I know all about her now. She lays her soul bare on the stage, watching such a performer live brings it home how many other acts are just that – acts. There’s little choreography about Beth Hart, it’s real, it’s raw and it’s something you can only really experience at one of her shows. This was the first time I’d seen this lady perform and it certainly will not be the last. Mesmerising.