Beth Hart and Steve Hill at Leeds Town Hall...
Words and photos: Anthony Firmin
From playing in a British pub a few days ago to now playing such a large, grand venue like Leeds Town Hall with all its northern grandiosity and splendour, Steve Hill’s rise can only be described as stratospheric! The octopus-like one-man band is gone this evening but even stripped back to an acoustic guitar, harp and electronic foot drum it is surprising how much sound he can create.
Currently on tour to support his latest excellent album, Solo Recordings Vol.3, he only received a call a few days ago asking if he would like to open for Beth Hart in Leeds, the resulting set seemingly far too short considering the wealth of great material available to him. His acoustic guitar echoes wonderfully around the hall as the packed crowd lap up his blues songs. Starting slower, the songs picked up speed as he progressed though his set, dancing with Emily and playing some impressive slide guitar too.
The four men sat in front of me were so impressed they went off to buy a CD during the break and plan on seeing him again in Leeds when he returns in a few days time (Leeds Irish Centre, Thursday 9th November – see links for other dates).
To appear stripped back takes some guts, especially when you have been backed by a killer band for years, but if there is a woman to take up the challenge and succeed like no other, then it is Beth Hart. From the moment she bounds onto the stage, her drive and magnetic personality go into fifth gear.
Every song tells a story from some part of her life and it gives strength to her writing talent that they stand up on their own with only Beth performing on piano, keyboard and acoustic bass and guitar. The first few songs see her getting into her stride – Chocolate Jesus along with Jazz Man, from her last album – and it settles the audience too.
As a raconteur Beth Hart is enigmatic and wears her heart on her tattoo’d sleeve; she recounts getting sober for the first time when she was in her 20’s and the battle to beat the drink in Bottle With Jesus, her religious belief’s coming to the fore in much of her material.
And it is that openness that endears her fans to her as she bears her soul further describing her battle with being bi-polar (Might As Well Smile), the honesty about friendships that turn into doomed relationships and become awkward due to changes in the dynamic (Under Water) and her experience of the Baptist revival church when she was a child (Spirit Of God).
Hart touches on her collaboration with Joe Bonamassa and takes an excursion into jazz with Swing My Thing before swapping to an acoustic bass for Spiders, a song about insomnia. She doesn’t hold back either as she sings about a former girlfriend of her brother who caused chaos at her parents house in Get Your Shit Together, her vocal intonation reminding me of Erykah Badu.
And the stories continue with each song, questioning whether she has the mind of a serial killer in Boogieman before recalling her childhood, noticing boys on the Santa Monica beach and wondering if they taste just like Coca Cola.
Leeds Town Hall is the perfect setting too, Beth Hart’s vibrato voice reverberating around the walls and columns of this, the most magnificent of halls. She rose to the challenge and not just succeeded, she excelled in delivering a stunning and entertaining performance.
Beth Hart is on tour in 2018 - you can catch her at the following venues, it will be an excellent show!
TUESDAY 10th APRIL 2018 - DUBLIN VICAR STREET
THURSDAY 12th APRIL 2018 - IPSWICH REGENT
SATURDAY 14th APRIL 2018 - BEXHILL DE LA WARR PAVILION
SUNDAY 15th APRIL 2018 - NOTTINGHAM CONCERT HALL
WEDNESDAY 18th APRIL 2018 - OXFORD NEW THEATRE
THURSDAY 19th APRIL 2018 - FOLKESTONE LEAS HALL
SATURDAY 21st APRIL 2018 - CARDIFF ST DAVIDS HALL
TUESDAY 24th APRIL 2018 - CAMBRIDGE CORN EXCHANGE
THURSDAY 26th APRIL 2018 - BLACKPOOL OPERA HOUSE
FRIDAY 27th APRIL 2018 - HULL CITY HALL
MONDAY 30th APRIL 2018 - READING HEXAGON
TUESDAY 1st MAY 2018 - PORTSMOUTH GUILDHALL
FRIDAY 4th MAY 2018 - LONDON ROYAL ALBERT HALL - SOLD OUT
SATURDAY 5th MAY 2018 - CHELTENHAM JAZZ FESTIVAL