In town last night after a prolonged absence to promote her new album Sugaring Season, a flu-stricken Beth Orton proved two things to the crowd at the Mod Club.
1. Even with a cold/flu, she still has a magnificent voice. 2. She is without a doubt, one of the most charming and funniest musicians on stage.
Let’s start with the latter, here are some selected quips from last night. I’m mostly paraphrasing.
About her husband/opener Sam Amidon: “Please welcome back Sam Amidon! The artist whose show you just talked through”
“Sam’s from Canada, you know” “Actually, I’m from Vermont”
About Toronto: “Toronto reminds me of a city in the future, from the 80′s…. I always thought it was clean, but really, it’s not “
About taking requests: (in mocking voice) “Comfort of Strangers! Galaxy of Emptiness! It’s the man with the loudest voice!”
About video recording: “Don’t record me! I have a cold! My voice sounds like shit!”
Which reminds me, whatever you do at a concert, don’t be this guy:
Here are the reasons 1) This just looks silly 2) No one wants to watch your shaky hand smart phone music video, including yourself. 3) The audio is going to be entirely awful 4) Instead of watching the actual show, you are looking at a 4 inch screen.
So no, that was not and will never be a good idea.
Okay, let’s go to the actual music.
Despite harboring a cold, and having to blow her nose during the set (to which one audience member yelled out “You had a cold at the show in _____ , do you remember that?” Note to audience member: She probably does not), Beth Orton sounded fantastic. Playing an entirely acoustic show (Sam Amidon sometimes played guitar/violin during the set), Orton showed off a wide array of vocal and songwriting skills that simply elevated the show beyond your standard singer-songwriter-acoustic affair. Much like how her earlier albums played around with electronic beats, Orton would play around with her voice throughout the set, changing pitches, range and tempo and while it’s nothing new to any performer, it just seems to work better with her. Songs just sound more interesting. Mixing new tracks with her expansive back catalog, Orton definitely pleased the crowd with her set, which included favorites such as Concrete Sky, Comfort of Strangers and my favorite – Stolen Car.
Amazing music and hilarious conversations, a night with Beth Orton is a multi-faceted affair, let’s hope we don’t have to wait this long for her return trip.