Beth Hart - Shepherds Bush Empire - 25th February 2012

Last time I reviewed Beth Hart I ended with the phrase "I may be a little bit in love with Mrs Hart" - so in order to prevent any kind of domestic disturbance or unwarranted court injunction, I was accompanied to this gig by my 16 year old daughter - a teenage chaperone I guess and fellow Rockgigger ME, although he was down in the moshpit somewhere.  First off, was the embarrassment of being video interviewed on the way in  - I won't say which one is me - but I cringed when I watched it  - but click here to see the punters interviewed.

So, on with the action - first up was Marcus Bonfanti. This guy is living proof of not judging a book by its cover. Frankly, and I hope he won't mind me saying this, he looks like Jesus would if he was a 1970's supply teacher. He's got a London accent when he talks and when he sings - BOOM!- Swamplands USA baby!  ...and then there's the guitar playing - playing a Dobro acoustic and somehow making it sound like a Les Paul one minute and a slidey demon from hell the next - wonderful, wonderful stuff.  

His band consisted of a bass player and bloke sat on a shoe box, with a tambourine under his right foot and a shaker in left sock. So picture the scene - Man sat on box, Jesus with a Slide Guitar and a normal looking bass player - remember that book and it's cover?  These guys played the blues like you wouldn't believe. Marcus' rich, deep voice perfect for both the slow burning blues numbers or the faster paced stuff.  The shoe-box-drummer was better than most of those sat behind a full kit. Recommended - in fact, even my Jared Leto loving daughter said that Marcus was "really good" - and there's no higher praise from my daughter.

What can I say about Beth Hart that I didn't say last time?  Nothing really. This was her biggest UK show, and she was thrilled to be there. SBE was packed to the rafters, so I think next time it will be onwards and upwards to bigger venues.

She simply walked on when the lights went down, sat at her piano and explained that she was really excited about the gig and wanted her mum to be there, but she couldn't come so she played "Mama" and dedicated it to her...  when she'd finished, the crowd erupted, the band came on and off we went...

Beth has a natural exuberance, that made this more like "An evening with.,..." type show, as she takes time out to talk excitedly between songs, continuously berating herself about her "potty mouth" but then amusingly instantly forgetting about it. We had a number of tracks from the "Don't Explain" Bonamassa collaboration album, which makes sense as I imagine that this was the album that brought Beth to a wider audience. At some stage during the evening Beth joked that she just needed to convince Joe Bonamassa to come on tour with her, and whilst that would be amazing, her guest guitarist (announced as "for tonight only" but doing her whole tour)  the 21 year old Josh Gooch did a fantastic job joining her highly competent, tight band. If Smokin' Joe ever needs a breather from his hectic schedule, then he should give Josh a go at filling in for him.

Part of the appeal of Beth Hart is that she can instantly switch with ease from Rock-Chick-Mode ("Sick", "As Good As It Gets") to Vulnerable-Balladeer ("Mama", "My California") to Soul-Blues-Diva ("Ain't No Way", "I'd Rather Go Blind", "I'll Take Care Of You") and all of the styles suit her.

You can tell how much her audience are mesmerised by her - when she sits at the piano, and plays unaccompanied the entire room falls quiet. Usually there is a general level of chatter in the background but not tonight (at least not where we were). If someone dared to start having a conversation whilst Beth was baring her soul to us, the typically British phrase of "Shhhhhhh!!" was aimed squarely and forcefully in their general direction.

During the extended encore section she admitted to the crowd that she didn't know what song to play next, telling Jon Nichols her guitarist one song..., then changing her mind  (Jon goes back and swaps guitars) then takes advice shouted from the crowd and plays both of them (a knowing smile from Jon and more guitar swapping)

We've scoured youtube and as well as the clips above have more in our gig video archive, so please go and have a look.

It was a fantastic gig, that absolutely flew by...and yes at risk of a domestic disturbance or injunction I will say loud and proud that I do definitely love Mrs Hart..and so does my 16 years old daughter - so I'll be needing a better chaperone next time please.

(photos by Stephen Fourie)


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