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Review: "Live in New York: Front and Center" - Beth Hart

by Andy Snipper,

This is a rich time for lovers of lady blues singers what with the likes of Sari Beth Schorr, Elles Bailey, Kaz Hawkins, Samantha Fish and many more.

But the current queen of them all is the wonderful Beth Hart.

I have seen her five times, including the solo show at the Union Chapel that was one of the most intense and emotional performances I have ever seen.

This is her first live album in around 13 years, recorded in 2017, and every element of her character is laid out across the 15 songs.

She is a self-confessed bipolar so you would expect the music to swing from up-tempo groovers such as ‘Jazz Man’ with its jaunty scat singing and cabaret feel through to the dark and melancholy ‘Baddest Blues’ which seems to hang in mid-air and gives the listener full access to the deepest troughs of her emotions.

If you want a rocker then she delivers with ‘Delicious Surprise’ which absolutely hammers it out but still allows some interaction with her audience.

She seems to have the capacity to make the listener feel every note of her tremulous vocal and most of the time the audience feels that she is singing directly to them – whenever I have seen her, her stories and songs seem to hit different people squarely in the heart and she has the capacity that Janis had for talking the language of the most vulnerable as well as the strongest.

One of the most revered songs is ‘St Teresa’ and the version here is gorgeously presented, Hart’s vocal on the edge of breaking down and loaded with the loneliness of a little girl. Couple that with the incredible ‘Tell Her You Belong to Me’ and it is no surprise that she has rivers of tears flowing at her shows.

This is genuinely superb; one of the best live performers around at the moment, at the very top of her game and singing to a rapt and attentive audience. 

Beautifully clean sound but the bottom line is that the songs are timeless and hit you somewhere deep.