Live Review: Beth Hart w/ Arielle at The Barbican, York [31st October 2021]

By November 4, 2021 Listen, Live, News, Reviews, York

‘Spider Costumes and Squid Games Masks’ Beth Hart Treats us to a very special two and a half hour set on Halloween, this is no Trick!!

Words – John Hayhurst & Jon Harris
Photos – John Hayhurst (@snapagig)

This show was the first to sell out on Beth Hart’s ‘Thankful UK Tour’, probably because its the most Northern gig of the 5 dates – the rest have been rescheduled to 2023 !! So plenty have travelled from the Midlands and from Scotland and the North East to York. Its Halloween too, the audience taking their seats are probably aged from about 45 to 75, and they are looking for a night of blues and soul sung from the very heart, and they all know Beth will deliver this.

First though, supporting artist is Arielle, a singer/songwriter from Texas, favourite of Queen’s Brian May as she has a signature BMG (Brian May Guitar) named after her. Looking like she stepped out of the film ‘Almost Famous’ complete with hippy hat and wide stripey flares.

Arielle stops everyone in their tracks with the sweetest pure voice and after playing a couple of her own tracks announces that she will play a cover, a song that reminds her of growing up. Now you would perhaps expect a Texan Country Classic but No!, this was a stunning cover of ‘Moon River’ originally performed by Audrey Hepburn in the 1961 movie ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’. There is much more to this girl than a guitar and voice, musicianship of the highest order, lyrics straight from her soul and a wicked sense of humour, “I give all my guitars names and this one is ‘Colin”. The half hour or so flies by so fast but Arielle is back in the UK in 2022 for her own tour, so watch out for that – including Leeds Brudenell Social Club on Friday April 8th.

Spooky purple lights and creepy John Carpenter Halloween music are the backdrop to Beth Hart’s entrance to the stage. She’s wearing regulation animal patterned vest and tight leather trousers, plus a couple of extra items, a squid games mask and some heavy leather boots. The band and road crew are also suitably attired in creepo masks and outfits – tonight is going to be an interesting show, at least at the start.

“We thought we’d scare the shit out of you first and then get on with the show” Hart suggests before launching into a few acoustic numbers, “This ones all about a serial killer” she keeps the fright momentum going with ‘Boogeyman’ up until the masks start to get a little sweaty and then by the third song ‘House of Sin’ she has lifted it above her head.

After the ‘spookoustic’ session Beth switches to her beloved piano and after a few “Hallelujahs” the Sunday Service can properly begin with the appropriately titled ‘Spirit of God’. The boots are still on at this point as she continues with the more uptempo ‘Swing My Thing’ and then a series of ballads to showcase her emotionally charged sensitive side. Conveying such personal aspects of her life, her childhood, losing her father at an early age and her vulnerabilities which are well documented elsewhere, this is all heart on your sleeve stuff, there is no hiding place here or a pretence of being a rock star. Those images are stripped bare to reveal someone who can express pure emotion in her voice and songs. Thats what you get at a Beth Hart concert, a rollercoaster of emotions on stage and in the audience. If you have ever imagined what it would be like to see an older Janis Joplin in concert, this is as close as it would get to that raw feeling.

Best songs in this set for me were Bad Women Blues and Sugar Shack. After this she took her boots and socks off on the floor as if she was sat in her own lounge. She chopped and changed how she wanted to present her songs to the audience with the band, particularly at the end when she asked them to leave the stage because she wanted to sing on her own at the piano.

It almost felt like a therapy session, she wanted to chat so much inbetween the songs, her husband and tour manager was at one stage shouting for her to shut up in order for her to get on with it – there is a curfew after all.

He had the last laugh as well, he made her dress up as a spider for the encore – “Don’t post any of those photos” she cries out to the audience as hundreds of camera phones go up.

She finished with ‘Leave a Light On’ and then left the stage after 2 hrs and 30 mins hugging her band. One of the best sounds from York Barbican for a long time, and well worth seeing this remarkable show. Her next dates in the UK are not until 2023 but she is in Europe during next year and I would expect to see her popping up at a couple of festivals in the summer – look out for that!!

Setlist (Original Version – Not Necessarily Accurate):

  • Isolation
  • Boogyman
  • House of Sin
  • Spirit of God
  • Swing My Thing
  • Bottle of Jesus
  • Easy
  • Rub Me for Luck
  • Picture in a Frame
  • Good as it Gets
  • Waterfalls
  • Saved
  • Heart as Black
  • Without Words
  • Sugar Shack
  • Can’t Let Go
  • Spanish Lullaby
  • Good Day to Cry
  • Caught Out
  • Trouble
  • Chocolate Jesus
  • Light On
  • Thankful
  • War in my Mind
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