By Martine Ehrenclou
Seeing Beth Hart live is an experience. And not one you’ll soon forget. Known for her dynamic stage presence, powerhouse vocals and songwriting inspired by her personal life, the Grammy nominated Hart has toured the world with Jeff Beck and Buddy Guy, recorded and performed with Joe Bonamassa. She has 10 solo albums to her name, the latest being A Tribute To Led Zeppelin.
Seated in the Saban Theater to see Beth Hart, the historic art deco theater was packed tight without one seat to spare.
The lights dimmed. Hart appeared at the rear of the venue, singing “Tell Her You Belong To Me,” dressed in a snakeskin print long dress, feet bare. Strolling down the aisle connecting with fans along the way, she sang the melancholy song about the father who left her, eventually letting loose with stunning vocals that flooded the 2000-seat venue. The crowd went absolutely wild, most on their feet to see Beth Hart among them before she made her way to the stage.
Beth Hart is a musical force. Not just because of her impressive vocals and range, but because she throws herself fully into her performances, both vulnerable and fierce at the same time. Her concert is an intimate one, and she understands clearly how to connect with her fans. Regarded as one of the top blues/R&B/jazz vocalists today, she is a risk taker, a mix of danger and innocence that’s reflected in her well-crafted and introspective songwriting.
A sultry grinder “Sinners Prayer” followed with Hart digging deep on this gritty number. It’s her attitude on stage that fuels her soaring, superb vocals, soft at times and hard-edged at others. Completely in control of her voice, Hart gave into this tune, undulating to the rhythm. Guitarist Jon Nichols’ slide guitar solo added another level of grit and emotion. Other top-tier band members include Bill Ransom on drums and Tom Lilly on bass. Hart connected with each one at different times during the show.
Seated at the piano with votive flameless candles scattered on its surface, Hart and the band launched into “Swing My Thing Back Around,” a jazzy, R&B tune with a big band feel that lifted the mood in the room. Hart then shared personal details about her husband and said, “My husband is so f*king awesome.”
After an explosive “Love Is a Lie,” a song that reflects times of deep struggle from her past, the band’s interconnection with Hart was apparent. Sharing anecdotes of her addiction and sobriety, she revealed her strengths as a storyteller, using her life as a vehicle to relate to others. Her song “Thankful” followed, sung on her knees at the edge of the stage with Nichols on acoustic guitar next to her. The crowd cheered for her journey to gratitude. And she thanked them in the most genuine way for their support.
Hart is a master at engaging her audience, not just to incite them to sing along with her or echo lyrics, but to connect with her personal stories. Part of that is her openness on stage, interspersed with humor about herself.
One of the highlights of the evening came when Beth delivered an emotional “War In My Mind” at the piano, a song about her darkest moments. Hart has a way with intensely personal lyrics paired with gorgeous melodies.
Someone from the audience shouted out a song request. Alone at the piano, she admitted, “I didn’t play it for a couple of years because I didn’t want you to think I’m soft. I want you to think I’m tough, scary. And I am scary.” And you believed her. Because there is something dangerous about Beth Hart. With those vocals and range, the depth of her soulfulness, her access to so much emotion, including anger and wickedness, it can be a little intimidating. And at the time same, you can’t help but like her because she’s so honest with who she is and what she’s been through, from her darkest life passages straight through to her triumphs. A survivor, she makes it easy to root for her.
Performing the tender “Take It Easy On Me” followed by “Leave the Light On,” the audience grew silent. Hart’s voice and piano swelled in the room.
After the beautiful “When Words Get In the Way,” Bill Ransom on drums, Tom Lilly on standup bass, and Jon Nichols on acoustic guitar joined Beth at the front of the stage for an intimate, percussive jam “Sugar Shack.” Hart and the band gave into the groove, with Ransom at the helm driving the rhythm. Beth sat next to him, vamping and having the time of her life.
Considering her latest album is A Tribute To Led Zeppelin, songs from that release were noticeably absent with the exception of “No Quarter/Babe I’m Gonna Leave You.” Seated on the stage, during “I’m Gonna Leave You” Beth gave herself over to the song, lying on her back, her body alive with the energy of the music. The audience shouted with delight. She ended the evening with the show-stopper, “I’d Rather Go Blind” (Etta James.)
Beth Hart is riveting to watch. With tremendous talent as an artist, it’s a rewarding and rich experience to see her perform live.
Watch Beth Hart “Sugar Shack”
Beth Hart website Here