Monday night saw Beth Orton kick off her current Australian tour at St. Joseph’s Church in Subiaco, Perth. It was quite simply put an exquisite night of music, with Orton, despite fighting off a cold and jet lag, in fine form. Though as the night progressed it became quickly clear that church pews aren’t designed for comfort.
Oh Mercy front man Alexander Gow began the evening’s proceedings with a brief and engaging performance. Despite his announcement that he never thought he’s be back in church, he looked comfortable on stage, delivering a polished and charismatic performance. One that has made me wants to delve further into the band’s back catalogue.
After a quick break (for rehydration and stretching mostly) Beth Orton took to the stage, launching straight into a beautiful and haunting acapella rendition of “Pieces of Sky” from her previous album Comfort of Strangers. You knew right then, from those opening moments, that this was going to be a show to remember. Though touring in support of her latest album Sugaring Season, Orton didn’t limit herself to those new songs, instead delving into her back catalogue and playing some old fan favourites as well.
It was one of those performances where everything came together. The intimacy of the venue brought about an increased reverence in the audience, their hushed reverie interrupted only for the applause at the end of each song; as clichéd as it sounds, you could have heard a pin drop. Though suffering a little bit with jet lag and illness, Orton refused to be beaten, occasionally opting for songs she openly admitted she might not be able to tackle. Not that the audience minded. Orton is a charming and self-deprecating performer, with her between song banter proving both engaging and humorous. It wasn’t always smooth sailing, with Orton stopping to tune her guitars at times between songs. Normally this can be a little irritating at shows, breaking the flow, here Orton uses this time to engage with the audience, make jokes, and point out stained glass windows of interest.
Being more familiar with the songs of her latest album, they were the ones which stood out the most for me. Particularly her rendition of William Blake’s “The Poison Tree” which she set to music on her latest album, one of my favourite tracks on the album, it was even more beautiful live. “Central Reservation” and “Someone’s Daughter” were also some of the evenings many highlights.
This was easily one of my favourite performances of the year so far, beautiful and haunting music in a truly intimate and unique venue. This is a tour well worth attending.