It’s been one of those weekends. Storm Dennis has battered the North East of England with heavy rain and gale-force winds, whilst tonight’s headliner Beth Hart has been battling a cold. I guess you could say upon arrival at the Sage Gateshead Hart was under the weather in more ways than one.
Last night’s show in Glasgow was cancelled as a result of Hart’s untimely illness. However, a sigh of relief was breathed on Tyneside this morning when the venue put out an announcement declaring that the US-based artist was fit to perform this evening. As the old saying goes the show must go on and you can’t keep a good woman down.
Hart makes a grand entrance into the auditorium, as she approaches the stage from the back of the room whilst accepting hugs from fans en route. There’s certainly a lot of love in hall one this evening. And once again a capacity crowd is in attendance at the Sage Gateshead for this Beth Hart’s third show inside of this majestic concert hall.
Even with a room as huge as this Beth makes the show feel intimate. She pulls up a stool in front of the stage whilst performing a mesmerising rendition of ‘Your Heart Is As Black As Night’.
Hart enlightens the audience that the song ‘Bang Bang Boom Boom’ was inspired by the movie Natural Born Killers. That is before taking the audience through the up-tempo number itself. This evening’s show features a lot of tracks performed from behind the piano.
Beth paces herself throughout the night and quite frequently switches songs up from the setlist. This, in turn, keeps things interesting for all in attendance, whilst also keeping the band on their toes so to speak. And the first time this happens is during ‘Chocolate Jesus’, a favourite of Beth’s which she declares is ‘So fun and naughty’.
Tonight’s show is a journey which goes through many different shades of darkness and light. Hart frequently bares her soul, she truly wears her heart on her sleeve and tonight there is no holding back. This is particularly the case during tracks such as the heartfelt and emotive ‘Sister Dear’ and ‘Sister Heroine’, which are followed back to back. The latter is dedicated to Beth’s niece Jade whose mum, and Beth’s sister Sharon was the subject of the latter, and just so happens to be present in the room this evening. You can just hear the emotion in Beth’s voice. To represent a song to the fullest the delivery has to be honest, and this is a characteristic that Hart has in spades.
Although some of the tracks in the setlist may be relating to heavy subjects, Hart’s witty banter between songs cuts through those topics with ease. One of the funniest moments of the set comes when Beth asked the audience ‘Do I seem sick or am I doing ok?’. One fan shouted out ’Thank you for turning up – being poorly’. Things got a little lost in translation due to the strong Geordie accent, to which she laughingly said ‘It sounds like you are telling me to go fuck myself’. After a few patrons closer to the stage informed the artist what the gentlemen had said she seemed overjoyed.
And that’s the thing that makes Beth Hart so great, is her connection with the audience. No matter whether a fan shouts out a greeting or simply waves, she acknowledges each person individually. And quite often during the show, she sits at the very edge of the stage only a foot or so away from the fans in the front row. This is particularly the case during a stunning airing of ‘Isolation’, which is performed on acoustic bass. This being a track from Beth’s debut album, and a favourite amongst the old school fans in attendance.
A further acoustic segment where Beth is joined onstage by the rest of her band, allows the fans to see another side of the artist that we rarely see. There is a certain degree of Latin influence, particularly in the rhythm, during stripped-back takes of ‘Come Close To My Fire’, ‘Baby Shot Me Down’ and ‘Spanish Lullabies’.
Beth closes out her main set with brooding piano ballad ‘Woman Down’, from her latest album War In My Mind. And under the circumstances, it would have been easy to call it a day here, but Hart is a real trooper and carries on regardless. My only question is which cold and flu remedy Hart uses as it certainly does the trick this evening, the artist doesn’t hold back for one moment. Or maybe live music, is the best medicine of all – who knows?
Uptempo single ‘Sugar Shack’, really comes to life when performed live. Whilst the cherry on the top of tonight’s show is Beth’s take on the Etta James classic ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’. Hart kicks off her shoes and sits barefooted at the edge of the stage as she sinks every ounce of her being into the track. Again, Hart could have taken the easy route, but mid-song she says to the band ‘We are going to do the long version tonight’. And it was spellbinding on all levels. Not a single person remains in their seat. And as the artist leaves the stage, she receives a duly deserved standing ovation from the whole room.
Tonight Beth Hart’s show has so many layers. And as the night progresses she unveils another layer to the audience. Beth can switch gears with ease, and her musical versatility is incomparable. She is so honest, open, raw and even funny – the whole show is just transcendent. Hart is without a shadow of a doubt one of the greatest female vocalists of our time.
To add to the spectacle of tonight’s event British blues/rock artist Kris Barras kicked off the proceedings early in the evening. However, this time around Barras performed as a duo, with a stunning stripped back six-song set. Kris was joined on stage by bandmate Josiah J Manning who was grappling with a multitude of instruments to counter the absence of the other half of the Kris Barras Band.
The pair took the Tyneside audience through stripped back versions of the likes of ‘Heart On Your Sleeve’, ‘Vegas Son’ as well their incredible take on The Allman Brothers Band’s ‘Midnight Rider’. The vocal harmonies and acoustic arrangements helped to bring a new lease of life to some of these staple tracks in the former MMA fighter’s repertoire.
Barras’ short but sweet set was brought to a close with the anthemic ‘Hail Mary’. And it has to be said that this format worked incredibly well for Barras, particularly in this large, all seated, theatre style environment.