Thursday, 14 May 2015

Hart on the Sleeve Music

Doing your homework in her front room
It's my first time at the Barbican and I am following the painted yellow lines on the walkway to find the entrance to the venue! It’s my second gig in two days and both are at venues I haven’t been to before.  The Barbican seemed a surprising venue to house a Beth Hart gig, but what do I know I’d never been here before but to me it smacks of high-brow music rather than rowdy Californian blues.

As the roadie strums the guitars during the final sound-check, the distorted wall of sound appears an intruder within the Barbican concert hall! But the moment Beth Hart bounces on stage with a giggle and mischievous laugh declaring that she always get’s nervous playing London, the incongruous setting melts away and we are in her front room as she lets us into her life through her music.

There are not many artists who can play large venues and communicate so easily with the gathered crowd.  There are close on 2000 people in the hall but at every moment you think she is talking directly to you and the person next to you. Starting and finishing the set solo at her piano, the candles and carpets add to the sense of intimacy. However, it is the willingness of Hart to wear her feelings on her sleeve and let you into the raw and brutally honest thoughts of her creative mind that produces the real intimacy.

And that voice… the power and control that never deserts her is used to drive home the intensity of each carefully chosen lyric. At times you are unsure if it is the sheer depth of the lyric or the cry in her voice that pierces your heart! Whatever it is - it communicates with you.

And on the first day of the second week God created vinyl not the CD
I had done my homework and listened to the new album which was useful as most of it is played! I had been left a little disappointed with the recording if I am honest. It seemed (as I find with most CD’s now) overproduced to the point of removing the raw, rounding the edges and felling the timbre.

Live is a totally different story. The songs are raucous, edgy, and delivered with a punch that hits home. Whatever you do, don’t judge a book by its cover and an artist by their CD.

The evolution of the CD has a lot to answer for. It has killed album artwork (we will never again have classic, era defining, iconic covers.) It has destroyed the album itself (you could fit approximately 40 minutes of music on a vinyl album an amount of music you can listen to at one go – but now we have to fill up that disk with an extra 30 or 40 minutes of remix rubbish!) It has also desensitized a generation of live music listeners who want a concert just to be a reproduction of the sterile CD! (Don’t even start me on downloads…) But live music, unlike a CD, hasn’t had the energy edited out of the mix or the perfection put back in and isn’t shrink-wrapped for the mass market. It is called live music for a reason – it lives!

She plays piano with dirty fingernails
There is nothing sterile about this gig. Every song scratches beneath the surface of the sheen that most people believe is life – she plays with dirty fingernails!

Life isn’t polished and perfect, it is not dampened down and rerecorded till its absolutely right. It is lived on the edge with light and dark, with errors and brilliance. All are equal parts of what life is. It is in the dark and in the errors - which society may well judge as failure - that we find ourselves, and we find life.

And that is why this gig is such an experience because Beth Hart’s songs are about living – living on the edge with light and dark with errors and brilliance. This gig is full of life; there is an energy about Beth Hart that exudes from every note and emotion of her songs.

Spot the Beth Hart fan
The beauty of a Beth Hart gig comes in the songs that take us on a real journey into what it means to love with an intensity seldom found in mass-produced pop and with an honesty that resonates with your own heart. Her performance embraces the natural rhythm, the natural ebb and flow of our emotions, and is presented to us through the razor sharp focus of bi-polar experience.

Also a spontaneity that reflects life too: at one point a voice in the crowd shouts out for ‘Chocolate Jesus’. Hart responds immediately and starts the intro on her piano. One of her guitarists has to quickly unstrap the guitar he was to play for the song on the set-list and call his roadie to bring a different guitar. At the end of ‘Chocolate Jesus’ his roadie offers him another guitar, he shrugs and looks across to Hart to see what song she was going to suggest next. It’s another cover ‘Nutbush City Limits’ and the roadie leaves the stage to find the appropriate the guitar!

At most concerts the audience tends to be a very small cross-section of society and can be defined by one or two predominant factors! For example, the blues gigs I have blogged about before would have an audience defined as mainly middle aged balding males whose denim jackets used to fit before the onset of the real ale beer belly! The audience at this gig is varied in age, fashion, gender, and social background… there is no defining feature. Which to me speaks volumes – to spot the Beth Hart fan you can’t rely on stereotypes. Her audience is made up of those who know life isn’t one long laborious series of highs as suggested to us in our consumerist postmodern society but is lived as much in the valley as on the mountain tops.

Gig: 9 of 50
Date of Gig: Fri. 8th May 2015


Miles Graham
Beth Hart

Running total of artists seen 24

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