For many, Halloween is their favourite holiday of the year. In the traditional sense, the 31st of October relates to the festival of Samhain – when ghosts and spirits were believed to be abroad. But for most, it provides the opportunity to dress up, get together with friends and pretend to be someone or something else for the evening.
WORDS & IMAGES: Adam Kennedy
For Beth Hart, her band and crew, Halloween provides the opportunity to take a slightly more theatrical approach to the penultimate show of her current UK tour. With the sounds of John Carpenter’s Halloween score resonating around the Barbican in York – the US-based artist arrives onstage sporting a mask from the hit Netflix show The Squid Game.
At the top of the set, Hart and her bandmates – who are also disguised in similar attire, open the show with a trio of stripped back and somewhat spooky blues numbers. One of which happens to be the rather appropriately titled “Boogyman”. The versatile performer effortlessly switches between acoustic bass and guitar throughout the opening segment.
A few songs into the set, Beth and company remove their masks. The vocal powerhouse assumes her position behind her trusty piano – where she resides for a large part of the show. It’s Sunday evening, and an up-tempo rendition of “Spirit of God” feels perfectly fitting on this day of rest. Hart’s soaring voice fills the room, whilst the subsequent, “Swing My Thing Back Around” showcases the jazzier side of Beth’s genre-defying repertoire.
The Los Angeles native performs a trio of heart-wrenching ballads including, “Bottle of Jesus”, “Love Is A Lie”, and the beautifully melancholy “Sister Heroine”. Each of which is delivered with passion and conviction. Perhaps you could say that Beth wears her Hart on her sleeve.
The headliner’s bandmates are kept on their toes throughout. With little more than a nod or a wink, the dynamic performer switches out the setlist based upon her read of the audience. One member of the crowd shouts “Bad Woman Blues” – and at the drop of the hat, Beth takes the request and ups the tempo somewhat.
Few performers can switch gears as seamlessly as Beth Hart. One moment she is sitting behind her piano performing the majestic “Rub Me For Luck”, and the next, she kicks off her shoes and is writhing around on the floor singing her hard rocking classic “Waterfalls”. In this respect, Beth Hart is in a league of her own.
There is room in the setlist for a couple of covers. Firstly, Beth again takes the York crowd to church courtesy of her Gospel-tinged performance of “Saved”. The latter of which was inspired by Hart’s love of Bob Dylan. Secondly, a spellbinding airing of Melody Gardot’s sultry number “Your Heart Is As Black As Night” follows.
With an impending curfew and a race towards the finish line, the artist goes full circle as she closes out her main set with acoustic takes on “Sugar Shack”, “Can’t Let Go”, and “Good Day To Cry”. This evening it feels like Hart would play all night given the opportunity. With a setlist spanning more than twenty songs, Beth Hart gives the York crowd the best show possible. Perhaps Halloween is a time for mischief, but despite the date, tonight’s Beth Hart concert is certainly more treat than trick.
US-originating singer, songwriter and guitarist Arielle opens the proceedings with a wonderful solo spot. Accompanied by nothing more than her trio of axes – Cali, Colin and the legendary Two-Tone, the Brian May protégé wins over the Barbican crowd. The audience remains transfixed and attentive as Arielle performs stunning takes on Andy Williams’ “Moon River” and the rather dreamy “Pure Imagination”. Whilst the bluesy riffs of “Voices In My Head” is one of the highlights of the evening early on. Arielle’s stripped-back solo arrangements highlight that her voice is equally as beautiful as the artist’s virtuoso guitar playing.