The BIC, Bournemouth

Beth Hart

Beth Hart stopped off at the smaller Solent Hall at the BIC on Saturday night as part of a European tour to promote her new album “Fire on the Floor”, her eighth solo recording since 1996. Born in Los Angeles in 1972, she made her recording debut in 1993 with “Beth Hart and the Ocean of Souls” before her first solo album proper, “Immortal” came along three years later. She first came to my attention five years ago with her two excellent Joe Bonamassa collaborations, “Don’t Explain” and the Grammy nominated “Seesaw”, but tonight she was making her Bournemouth debut flying solo with her touring band.

Colin James
Colin James 

To kick things off the Canadian guitarist Colin James warmed the audience up nicely with a thirty minute set of old blues standards with his cohort Chris Cordell. Sat on chairs at the front of the stage, the pair rattled through a variety of blues covers by the likes of Robert Johnson, Sam Cooke, Blind Willie McTell and a nice version of Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic”, before exiting to appreciative applause. James is certainly one to look out for and I will be hunting down his latest release “Blue Highways”, from which most of the material tonight was taken.

After a short break the lights dimmed as guitarist John Nichols, bassist Bob Marinelli and drummer Bill Ransom strode on to the stage and struck up the intro to “Close to My Fire”, an ethereal voice joined in but the owner was nowhere to be seen. Gradually the house lights went up and Beth made her entrance from the back of the hall, striding down the aisle high fiving, hugging and indulging in selfies as she went, the unexpected appearance immediately got the crowd on her side. The first thing that strikes you is the power in her delivery, it’s the type of voice that can fill a hall with its dynamism on the upbeat numbers and can break your heart on the slower ballads, sheer class. After a raunchy “Sinners Prayer” she took to the piano, introducing “Trouble” by recounting how disruptive she was at school. “Jazz Man” and “Baby Shot Me Down” from the new album followed before she launched into what was to be one of many highlights, “Baddest Blues”, a searing indictment on a rotten, one sided love affair.

Beth Hart
Beth Hart 1

A honky tonk cover of Tom Wait’s “Chocolate Jesus” upped the pace for a four song segment that saw Beth leave the stage for another expedition around the stalls. For her next trip to the piano the emotional intensity was ratcheted up a notch with “Take it Easy on Me”, a song dedicated to her husband, who happens to be her tour manger. As it drew to a close an audience member exclaimed loudly, “What a Voice”, a remark which was echoed by the rest of the crowd as a loud ovation greeted the final dying notes. Monologues on her struggles with a Bipolar disorder, drug addiction and insecurities conveys an inner turmoil which informs many of her songs, not least on the aforementioned “Take it Easy on Me”, “Mama This One’s for You”, “A Good Day to Cry” and “My California” a statement on how she had fallen back in love with her home state after a period of loathing.

For the last quarter of the show Beth and guitarist John Nicholls sat down with acoustic guitars and plucked songs from the ether, a set list is not something she sticks to making her shows a one off experience every night, before bringing the evening to a close with an intense version of the title track from her new album, “Fire on the Floor”. The band returned for a three song encore including a rousing take on Ike and Tina Turner’s “Nutbush City Limits” and two new ballads, a low key end to an exhilarating show. As the near capacity crowd filed out of the hall into the teeth of Storm Angus, the talk was not of the appalling weather which is the usual British trait, but what they had just witnessed, a truly uplifting and inspirational concert from an artist at the peak of her powers.

Set List
Close to My Fire
Sinners Prayer
Jazz Man
Baby Shot Me Down
Baddest Blues
Chocolate Jesus
Lifts You Up
Let’s Get Together
Something Has Got a Hold of Me
Take It Easy On Me
Mama This One’s For You
My California
Broken and Ugly
The Ugliest House On The Block
Love is a Lie
St. Teresa
Fire on the Floor

Nutbush City Limits
Good Day To Cry
No Place Like Home


Words & Pictures By John Cherry.

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