Gig review by John Kennedy / Gig Photos by Ian Dunn
Just Imagine… It’s long gone 9pm and she knows the hovering maître’d knows she knows she’s been stood-up. No call, no text, no email no tweet – what a bastard. The Sommelier discreetly takes away the melting, sloshed champagne bucket – an apposite metaphor for her heart-chilled tears of humiliation and anger. The waiter brings her a sympathetic slug of Jack Daniels, ‘Compliments of the house, mademoiselle.’ Meanwhile, the band strikes up a slow, soulful refrain. ‘Yeh, guys, rub it in eh?’ But, hold on honey! Something divine is happening… God has emphatically intervened. He’s distilled the vocal pyrotechnics of Grace Slick, Janis Joplin, Paul Rogers, Joe Cocker, Steve Tyler and amorphised them in to this kick-ass US lass called Beth Hart and sent her down to personally bathe your broken-heart in restorative Hart affirmative splendour! Praise The Lord! Come on now, everybody – let’s all work together and just utterly Rock n’ Roll.
My goodness – Ms. Hart expounds a voice to be reckoned with and swaggers within a curvy, sassy brown cotton dress that suggestively struggles to contain it. Such is her vocal range, register and nut-kicking ballistic grunt the microphone appears to be less a necessity than a cosmetic appendage. The formidable band supercharged introed with a slide-guitar growl as Ms. Hart, in modesty to blazes brouhaha, unleashed Hell in the Earthly guise of ‘Lord Have Mercy On Me’. The agenda was declared. There would be no prisoners taken. The Institute adored her and didn’t the sultry minx just know it. Call it Blues, Soul, stadium ballad and Spiritual catharsis all a’ bubbling in a special-brew eclectic Gumbo cauldron of chic-slick Rock. There were sometime nuanced Elton John Tumbleweed connections with Carly Simon’s piano ballads whilst the Tom Waits cover ‘Chocolate’ resonated within a distinctly bierkeller dystopian Kurt Weill umpapa darkness.
‘Caught Out’ was enough to make Satan wipe away at tear with his kittens’ comfort blanket whilst ‘Spirit Of God’ anecdotally related her childhood initiation to the ‘rock show’ experience – an invitation she couldn’t refuse – a full-on bonkers Black Baptist celebration. It was a nifty rhythm n’ blues roadhouse rocker that just proves, yet again, The Lord grooves in mysterious ways.
Now, with ‘Waterfall’ she really gave it some stadium hormone smolder – shimmering with strumpet abandon – slinking up against the proscenium arch wall. Is this anyway for a Lady to behave at a rock & roll concert? Grown men were weeping. Security men were turning in their badges. Oh yes.
Encore, ‘Sick Me’ was a cathartic outrage reflecting on her, now rejected, dependence on pernicious Columbian nose-candy indulgences.
Last song ‘Baddest Blues’ opened to a somber piano smoky-dive blues bubbling with cat and mouse teasing possibilities of operatic grandeur but segued in to gentle closures. Leaving the Institute, the rat’s toilet disgusting March rain, coming in with a roar, was shrugged-off by happy bunnies bathed in sun-shined bliss.