May 9, 2013 Reviewed by Michael Dwyer
Beth Orton. Photo: David Clemson
Reviewer rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Beth Orton St Michael’s Uniting Church May 8
Beth Orton had to confess the last supper guests gazing down from the cloisters made her uneasy. The silent congregation looming from every padded nook and pew of St Michael’s Church was hell on her nerves too. “So many of you,” she whispered as she fumbled with the first of several tricky open tunings on her acoustic guitar.
We came to worship, if only she realised. But the hushed grandeur of this most elegant venue caught her breath so profoundly that her songs could barely escape. The effect could be compelling, but sometimes in the imminent meltdown sense.
The crack in her voice was most effective over the tick-tock guitar of Call Me the Breeze, one of many tunes cast among the autumnal elements and lo-lo-lo lilts of pastoral folk immemorial. The utter desolation of Galaxy of Emptiness was also beautifully served by the vulnerability of her pitch into the stillness.
The fragile solo set-up did have to carry a lot of weight, given the stellar players and chamber orchestration on the album, Sugaring Season, she came to play. In the end it was her audience, spellbound and forgiving, who got her over the line.