Newcomer to Anti-Records and veteran to the Astralwerks electronic music scene, neo-folk soul sister Beth Orton made an appearance at Battery City’s Rockefeller Park last month. It was the first night of relief from New York City’s heat wave and thus, a perfect atmosphere in which to enjoy her music, with a dazzling summer sunset on the river to boot. She was accompanied by guitarist Sam Amidon and acclaimed pianist Doveman (Thomas Bartlett) and played an acoustic guitar. For those who know her through her grittier “folktronica” sounds and her collaborations with William Orbit and the Chemical Brothers, it was definitely something different.
Her stage presence was light-humored and casual; when helicopters kept flying over the stage, she joked that they were her surveillance team. Her sense of humility and obvious respect for her contemporaries (“I don’t know how Tori Amos does that with her foot tapping [when she plays piano]…she must have long legs!”) only served to heighten the feeling that this big stage in the middle of a big park, was actually a cozy and intimate setting. She even jumped on the piano (minus foot-tapping) for a lullaby to her daughter Nancy. We were also treated to her contagiously optimistic cover of The Five Stairsteps’ “Ooh Child” and to the oldie-but-goodie “Release Me” from her debut album (and first collaboration with William Orbit) SuperPinkyMandy. For the encore, she played us her own tribute to the river, in honor of the River To River Festival that she was a part of; entitled “Blood Red River,” it had a spiritual quality to it that was a perfect ending to the night.