Congregation gets Orton over the line

May 9,  2013 Reviewed by Michael Dwyer

Beth Orton.

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.

  Her quavering gags and bravado charmed us, too, as she set to the chiming  chords of Last Leaves of Autumn at a grand piano which, frankly, put  the fear of God into her. The demanding melodies of She Cries Your Name  and Central Reservation had her all but gasping. The third request for  a tune she couldn’t possibly play had her openly blaspheming.

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.

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