Thu 19th Jan, 2012 in Event Reviews
When Beth Orton arrives on stage at the City Recital Hall as part of this year’s Sydney Festival , the English singer-songwriter says “hi!” and quickly picks up an acoustic guitar. There’s no band behind her and no unnecessary fuss: it’ll just be her voice and a guitar for most of the night.
Opening with Heart Of Soul from the 2006 album Comfort of Strangers, her voice immediately fills the silent Recital Hall, as light reflects off her guitar and shines around the walls. With Beth’s voice alone being showcased alongside an acoustic guitar, without the violin and drums we’re used to hearing on the albums, a new vulnerability is brought to her music.
The atmosphere while she’s singing is subdued and it’s as though the audience are afraid of making any noise at all. That’s until Beth, mid-tuning, calls her guitar a bastard and then breaks a string. Hearing her swear at her guitar and despair over not having any more strings is an icebreaker and has us all giggling and calling out support. Beth plays the next few songs on the other acoustic guitar, including Safe In Your Arms which she almost forgets the title of, before delving into another new song on the piano.
During the new songs, Beth is clearly more confident and her voice stronger; it’s clear she’s excited to be playing them to us tonight. Sam Amidon joins her on stage for a couple of tracks before leaving her to continue the rest of the show solo.
Old hits Shopping Trolley and Stolen Car get the best reception of the night and Central Reservation, a track that’s dedicated to “all the people who’ve written to me and asked for it to be dedicated to them,” is another standout.
Beth plays her encore, walks off and despite the lights staying down, many people start to leave. But those patient enough to stay are rewarded, as she makes a surprise reappearance and plays one more song before she “buggers off”. Ooh Child from The Other Side of Daybreak is the last song of the night, played, unfortunately, to a half-empty theatre. It definitely a special treat to hear this song and perfectly conclude such a heartfelt show.
Beth Orton used the small space in the City Recital Hall to her advantage and managed to fill it with her voice, proving that her new songs are as beautiful as her old ones. Now, more than ever, we’ll all be waiting to hear them on a new album.