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BETH HART, Borderline, London 24 May 2011

Beth Hart, photo by Maggie Rogers

Beth Hart's uncompromising take on the well worn Southern Californian confessional singer songwriting model seems to be paying dividends. One part Janis Joplin bluster with a mighty vocal range to match and one part a contrastingly emotionally fragile but self affirming lyricist, she's found a welcoming audience waiting for her in Europe. Beth deals in raw autobiographical outpourings that chart her progress from down and out rock & roll wild child to a confident songstress on the cusp of the BBC Radio 2 playlist.

And judging by her sudden unannounced march to the centre of the Borderline stage for an opening cover of Aretha Franklin's 'Baby I Love You' she is an artist in a hurry to make up for lost time.

Beth Hart, photo by Maggie Rogers

Beth's black and white hair style almost acts as a visual metaphor for her 'ying and yang' past. But it was her vivacious personality and the quality of her songs that allowed her to seize the moment tonight as she moved confidently over a lyrical landscape given raw expression by her effortless vocal range and a delicate vibrato, both crucially anchored by a whip crack band.

In between drawing on songs that date back to her 2003 'Leave The Light On' and focussing on the current 'My California' CD, she explored a recent collaboration with Joe Bonamssa on 'Hiding Under Water' and transformed two uncertain moments when she stumbled over her lyrics to her own ends, by attributing the lapses to the presence of "god" aka Jeff Beck.

It was almost a mistake as she raised false audience expectations of a Beck cameo, but we needn't have worried as her naturally exuberance, charisma and sheer determination kept the show on track.

Beth Hart, photo by Maggie Rogers

Even in those rare moments of uncertainty when a song didn't quite catch fire, she immediately compensated with an enquiring 'how ya doing' never letting her audience's attention wander. Only a totally unnecessary bass and drum solo and her own brief puzzling absence from the stage detracted from a mesmerising performance.

Beth Hart rocked, sang from her soul, added touches of lyrical poignancy and threw in some raucous humour and even touches of confrontational aggression in a set of songs that mark her out as special.

Beth Hart, photo by Maggie Rogers

When she sang her moving ballad 'Leave the Light On' - '21 on the run, on the run from myself and everyone' - it was a raw lyrical theme that she re-explored on the primal therapy qualities of the equally impressive 'LA Song' and the uncompromising, self revelatory 'One Eyed Chicken'.

The latter included the line 'I'm not the kind of woman you'd want to take home' , and it this kind of emotional rawness and lyrical honesty that explains her cross over appeal and high quotient of women fans...

But Beth was not all doom and gloom as the celebratory 'As Good As It Gets' and the irreverent domestic humour of 'Wash Your Stinky Feet Motherfucker' proved.

She saved her best for last, encoring with 'My California', which she dedicated to her busy road manager/hubbie Scott and drew on all her soulful reserves for a spine tingling finish with Sam Cooke's 'A Change Is Gonna Come'. It was the perfect musical flashback to the core of her own visceral style that is fast attracting attention.

Review by Pete Feenstra

Photos by Maggie Rogers

Tony Charles, Get Ready to ROCK! presenter, writes:

Having not heard that much from Beth Hart I did not know what to expect but I must say I was impressed with the gig. (Band On The Wall, Manchester May 20)

Backed by 3 competent musos Beth has a really good rock blues voice and I was surprised by the fact she didnt perform more rock like tunes, but in saying that I did enjoy the performance.

The set consisted of a hour and half in length and the songs in the main had a fair amount of personal back ground to them, as she had her share of setbacks with drugs and the like.

I found some of the performance not a million miles away from a Neil Young gig with a bit of Carole King thrown in for good measure and it must be said that shes very talented.

For someone whos just completed an album with Joe Bonamassa Im expecting her to break into the UK music scene in a big way and can highly recommend her performance and music.

But for those of who like your rock a bit more hard hitting then it may not be your bag! But give it a shot!

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