Beth Hart. Gothic Theatre. 09.16.15

Beth Hart

Beth Hart. Gothic Theatre. 09.16.15

You got places to go, you got people to know, you got plans to get your shit together.” As Beth Hart offered her soul to the audience on Thursday night, I couldn’t help but wonder if she used those lyrics as a mantra during her recovery. The 43-year-old singer-songwriter from Los Angeles, California has written hit singles that have been featured on prime time television shows; she’s performed, recorded, and toured with some of the biggest names in blues. And she’s received a standing ovation from the President of the United States of America. Yet, her life has also been marred by tragedy. Substance abuse, the death of a sister, and a bipolar diagnosis are enough to lay waste to the best of intentions, so it wasn’t surprising when Hart’s life followed through on the rest of that chorus, “Did you take it too far, did you forget who you are, did you stash your soul into the closet?” Fortunately, like the woman in the song, Beth Hart pulled it together. The happily married woman on the stage at the Gothic Theatre had recently released an excellent new album, and as she performed selections (life stories) from it, she was surrounded by an amazing backing band (including the drummer who left when she was a mess) and she wore a smile with style. If she was telling the truth about being on oxygen backstage because of the altitude, she wasn’t letting the situation get her down as she celebrated survival with song.

Beth Hart

The night came to life with a powerful rendition of “Can’t Let Go”. Hart recorded the Randy Weeks song (made famous by Lucinda Williams) with Joe Bonamassa for Seesaw, and although it was written from the point of view of a victim, Hart turned that shit on its head as she took control of the crowd. Burning bright with an intense light, she mapped the stage as she shook, rattled and rolled her way from one side to the other…and then back again. Energy far from spent, she took her place at the piano for “Better Man”, solidifying her place among one of the strongest voices in modern blues. As the ode to her husband bled into “Good as It Gets”, and then transitioned into “I’ll Take Care of You” (with an insane guitar solo), I grew concerned that maybe Beth Hart had gone a little soft. Was this going to be a night of love songs? The answer came in the form of a couple selections from Screamin’ For My Supper. She was back on her feet (with those gasoline-soaked vocal chords) for “Get Your Shit Together” and “Delicious Surprise”. And then she was in the audience for “Waterfalls”. Making her way to the very back of the main floor, she was surrounded by fans as she preached the impermanence of years and tears.

Beth3

The sound wasn’t perfect before Hart joined the audience on the floor, but when she found her way back to the stage to do a little Axl Rose impersonation, it had gotten worse. Luckily her voice was strong enough to overcome any technical difficulties (as well as overpower the drunk girls at the bar), but it wasn’t until she went into full chanteuse mode for “If I Tell You I Love You” that everything seemed to coalesce into the perfect balance of band, voice and volume. Unfortunately for me, that coincided with my least favorite part of the show. “Bang Bang Boom Boom” was a little too Amy Winehouse for me, and “Swing My Thing Back Around” was way too jazzy for my tastes, but that’s not to say she didn’t pull that shit off. She did. In fact, throughout the night I watched her pull off Roseanne Cash, Mark Curry, Joan Jett and Melissa Etheridge (as well as the already mentioned Lucinda Williams), while always being nothing more or less than herself. The woman has a range that cannot be denied. I just prefer when her life story can be heard in the high notes she hits while singing the blues, rather than in the words of the hip-hop inspired “The Ugliest House on the Block”. The jazz came before the calm though, so when she told the story of meeting her husband (“how fucked up do you have to be for your friends to ask why he would date you?”) before dedicating “My California” to him, it started the most naked run of the night. When her husband came out and hugged and kissed (tackled) her after that song, it inspired “With You Everyday”, which led into “LA Song”. I realize getting so excited about “LA Song” is somewhat of an amateur thing to do, but goddamn it’s a good song. And she nailed it!

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Having never seen Hart perform live, I wasn’t sure what to expect from her set. I’d have considered myself a big fan a decade or so earlier, but after being estranged for so many years, I had my doubts that she would perform the songs I wanted to hear. As it turned out, the song selection didn’t really matter. It was her voice, and her presence, and her stories in between the songs that really made the show. She’s moved on from the dark times, but she doesn’t try to hide them. They came out every time she used the word “motherfucker”, or when she talked about being “fucked up on drugs”, but the seriousness of the situation was well balanced with her sense of humor. As she shone her light on her past, she was able to see the strength it gave her. That strength came through as she closed things out with a long run from her latest album…an album she should be proud of. In fact, those last four songs might have been the highlight of the night. They contained the story of her life without trying to hide any of the scars. She sang them with gravel in her throat and they were beautiful…just like her.

Setlist:
Can’t Let Go
Better Man
Good as It Gets
I’ll Take Care of You
Get Your Shit Together
Delicious Surprise
Waterfalls
If I Tell You I Love You
Bang Bang Boom Boom
Swing My Thing Back Around
My California
With You Everyday
L.A. Song (Out of This Town)
The Ugliest House on the Block
St. Teresa
Trouble

Might As Well Smile
Tell Her You Belong to Me

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Setlist

  1 comment for “Beth Hart. Gothic Theatre. 09.16.15

  1. Keith
    September 21, 2015 at 9:20 pm

    I was there at the Gothic, this night in question. I love Beth Hart. Her voice is one of a kind… EVER! Her song writing is also brilliant. I have been a strong fan for about 4 years now. I discovered Joe Banamassa though her, not the other way ’round. Her musical talent (and her now husband) got her through the drug addiction years. What is THE most cool though, is how she wears her heart on her sleeve. Spend three minutes watching any interview with her, and you will know what I mean by that. I happen to love her blues covers the most, but I agree with you, the song selection does not matter. It’s Beth herself that makes any song, and any band, excel.

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