Holy Trinity review: Beth Orton

Posted on 23 May 2013.  Gay Express

Review: Beth OrtonBeth Orton delivered everything you could have wanted from a Beth Orton show set in a cathedral on a rain sprinkled Auckland night. Yet, she played no old songs at Holy Trinity this last Saturday.  

Wait, did I just say that? What I mean is that Orton’s voice has matured with time and she brings all of her songs into the present. The once willowy voice is now a little bit lower and it crackles from time to time (think of the spine of your favourite book – fine lines, still holding integrity and telling a story). These things don’t subtract from any of her more familiar repertoire. They only add to those songs you know by heart. These tunes aren’t the old versus the new, but a cannon that feels both contemporary and timeless.

I first got to know the British singer-songwriter through her Lilith Fair association, but many have found her from her collaborations with William Orbit and the Chemical Brothers in the mid-1990s. Her heartbreaking and breakthrough album Trailer Park was and still is a critical gem and she has gone on to release four more studio albums, all (dare I say) phenomenal.

It’s no wonder Orton can fill every seat in a towering cathedral.

After a rather underwhelming opener who I won’t bother to mention, the show was just Orton, a couple of instruments and a cathedral. The quirky 1970s cathedral seemed as though it was made to house Orton’s voice. The lights reflected off the altar and the room glowed as though in the sky, as though underwater.

Orton opened up the show with an a cappella before picking up her guitar and reminding the audience of the magic a woman’s voice and a guitar can conjure. While there were a few songs on the piano, it was the guitar numbers that really stand out to me, especially “Never Saw the Sunshine” and an aching encore of “Central Reservation”. What still tingles under my skin from Saturday’s performance is her cover of Five Stairsteps’ “Ooh Child”. I believe her: things are going to get easier.

Orton doesn’t hide from the changes in her voice or her life. She embraces them and delivers us a rare and divinely imperfect gift.

Article | Erin Fae. Photo | Beth Orton at Holy Trinity Cathedral, 18 May 2012, Photo: Steve Bone. See more pics from the show online here.

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