Review and Photos by Ellen Eldridge
The single worst thing about last night’s sold out Beth Hart show was trying to reconcile my love of the music with the need to get photos worthy of my press pass. Crawling through a crowd—however politely asking for passage to the front—assures one of many sideways glances and firmly placed feet. At least one inebriated Hart lover warned me that I was to “take a few pictures, and then move back or my girlfriend’s going to get mad at me.” I reminded myself she had every right to her coveted front row center spot, and she had every right to every beer she had throughout the day that led her to pull back the curtain to try to catch an early glimpse of Hart herself.
The single greatest thing about last night’s sold out Beth Hart show was the church vibe, and I don’t mean that anyone stood up and testified; what I mean is that despite everyone wanting his or her foothold and a chance to lock eyes with the band on stage, the sense of community was overwhelming.
Hart opened with “Hiding Under Water” and its lyrics like “Everybody is strangers” and “No, I won’t take you for granted” immediately impacted and swayed the stolid fans into a burst of emotion. I felt more moved as I got into a groove by the second song, “Baddest Blues,” which is the first track on Hart’s recently released Bang Bang Boom Boom. I’ll further admit that though Hart has been around for more than one album, I didn’t find her until now. Last night was the first time I got to see her, and I was truly excited to see her at Smith’s Olde Bar where the close-knit sense of community is a given when a large group of fans fill a small space.
Before playing “Delicious Surprise,” Hart told her fans that the song was written at a time in her life when she really needed her sister’s words guiding her to shake her pessimistic feelings. She called out to the crowd, “Do you feel alright” and made it sound like it was part of the song. As a follower of the similar idea presented in the movie “What the Bleep Do We Know,” my ears perked up when Hart prefaced her song by telling us that this was her, “dreaming out loud.” Her lyrics “My preacher says I’ve got to see it to believe it” and “Heaven’s inside” tied the idea of a church congregation back to her music during the middle of the set.
Though the touring band Hart brought with her was comprised of Tom Lilly (bass), Todd Wolf (drums), Beth Hart (vocals/keys), PJ Barth (guitar) and Jon Nichols (guitar), Hart referenced her husband (and manager) Scott Guetzkow after thanking the fans for bringing “so much love and so much energy” out. She said, “My husband Scott saved my life” before beginning “Is That Too Much To Ask?” Those who didn’t already know Hart ditched her drug of choice (Klonopin) around the turn of the millennium in favor of Guetzkow who helped her build her career back up to the point where she could release Leave the Light On in 2003.
Hart’s personal story echoes through not only her lyrics but also her movements on stage. She’ll bow to the piano keys, shake her hips across the stage and smile as much as she’ll cringe in time to the weeping of a guitar solo. Her emotional expressions betray her true homecoming in the music; she readily shares herself with her fans and a venue like Smith’s captured that beautifully last night. It’s no wonder the show sold out.