tue 28/03/2017

Brighton Festival: Beth Orton, Attenborough Centre for Creative Arts | reviews, news & interviews

Brighton Festival: Beth Orton, Attenborough Centre for Creative Arts

Brighton Festival: Beth Orton, Attenborough Centre for Creative Arts

Live charisma adds human depth to the perfect sheen of her new record

Live, her voice has a grainier, more sensuous quality than on record
Orton: teasingly humorous

Beth Orton’s sparsely ethereal new collection Kidsticks has been well received for marking an interesting change of direction. Last night’s Brighton Festival gig gave audiences the best of both, beginning with most of the new songs, then climaxing with some old favourites that evoked her rockier past.

Nor was it just the blend of old and new songs that offered an intriguing perspective on her craft. Live, her voice has a grainier, more sensuous quality than on (the new) record. A case can be made for the perfect sheen of the recorded sound. The glassy lacquer was missed on the dreamy waft “Dawnstar”, which needs the sonic wrinkles smoothed away. Though in some of the more ethereal pieces, such as “Moon” and “Petals”, some human grit adds a useful forlorn quality. The almost delirious airiness of “Corduroy Legs” gains a worldliness from the lived-in charisma of Orton’s live voice.

Her dry humour helped her through a few fluffed intros

It also draws out the sensual yearning of an older song like “Touch Me With Your Love”. And towards the end of the set, when she turned up the volume for “She Cries Your Name” and “Stolen Car”, we were reminded that rock flavour works well, but she doesn’t quite have the volume or projection for anything anthemic.  

The excellent staging contributed too. Semi-abstract pastel projections – there were dancing bodies that morphed into abstract shapes – reflected the dreamlike character of songs such as “Moon”, “Galaxy”, “Petals” (the first three of her set) and “Snow”. Three white balls hung above her head, and were illuminated with both matching and contrasting colour schemes, while at others they blinked in subtle evocation of some of her earlier, more dance-flavoured compositions.

Hiding coyly behind a bob-fringe and large mug of tea, she remained an inscrutable presence until well into the second half, when the teasingly humorous observations began – about her craft, last night’s dream, the large balls hanging over her head. Despite the campus location, the audience were mostly vintage south-coast hipsters rather than youngsters on a voyage of exploration. She pitched the tone just right, and her dry humour helped her through a few fluffed intros. A solitary heckler was drowned out by supporting voices, revelling in a charismatic and varied performance.    

@matthewwrighter

Comments

I was at this gig as a music lover who was genuinely interested in listening to an artist I am not familiar with. Sadly I was very disappointed and unlike the reviewer, spent most of the evening, bored to the point of distraction! I attended the Beth Hart gig earlier in the week at the Church and was totally blown away, night and day I'm afraid, it was indeed a tale of two Beth's !!

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