By Poppy Tohill
Artist: Beth Hart
Date / Venue: Friday March 27th. The Powerstation, Auckland
The roof was literally blown right off Auckland's Powerstation on Friday night, as one of the loudest crowds I have ever witnessed, screamed, shouted, sung, danced and clapped along at the top of their lungs, whilst Beth Hart and her incredible band of talented musicians blew our minds, beyond impossible limits.
Taking to the stage alone for the opening performance, Beth kick started the night off with the strength of her impeccable vocals simply accompanied by the sweet, melodic keyboard she simultaneously played throughout her hit song, ‘Leave The Light On.' The audience, enthusiastic and adoring from the moment Beth appeared on stage welcomed the singer with open arms, and showered her with a great level of well deserving unconditional love.
"What's up Auckland?!" Hart beckoned as the song drew to an end. "God it's been so long since I've been here and I always had a great time when I came here back in the day, but I've never played a show with my full band in New Zealand before," she announced, "this is the first time, so thank you so much for coming!" she excitedly went on.
With this, her band consisting of Jon Nichols (guitar), PJ Barth (guitar), Bob Marinelli (bass) & Julian Rodriguez (drums) took to the stage as she introduced them one by one, before turning the volume and energy levels up to maximum capacity and launching into the incredibly rocky ‘Delicious Surprise' from her 1999 album ‘Screamin For My Supper.' While Beth's extraordinarily powerful vocals mesmerised everyone, her immensely infectious energy soon caught onto the audience, who within seconds were dancing like their lives depended on it.
Beth not only clearly owned the stage, but she owned that microphone, showcasing what a powerful and versatile performer she is as she strut her stuff across the stage throughout ‘Can't Let Go,' as her band rocked from behind, clearly also enjoying themselves as much as Hart and the audience so obviously were.
By this stage you could tell Hart was more than warmed up, amping and rearing to continue as she stood there literally jumping in her skin with excitement as she announced, "I'm ready like a motherfucker! I've had five cups of coffee before I came up here so I'm ready!" she bubbled, as excitement just oozed out of her contagious smile. Keeping with the energetic pace, 'For My Friend' was next, which again showcased Beth's striking vocal power, and energy as she rocked around the stage in style with her hand on her hip throughout the impressive instrumental that saw both the guitarists and drummer let rip and give everything and more that they had to offer.
Filling the audience in on her new upcoming record, ‘Better Than Home,' which see's Hart step away from writing just about her pain, to focus on the good things, she introduced the next song ‘Tell Her You Belong To Me' as the song that took her the longest to write- "a year and a half," (to be exact) she informed everyone. "It's about my father whom I love so much," Hart explained. "When I was a kid he left and of course you know when that happens kids freak out, my mum freaked out and it was hard. But as I got older I learnt about his past and I also learnt that he's doing the best he fucking can. I still wrote this song about when he left and took off with that new mother-fucking stepmother bullshit though," she went on, before launching into what was the most intense and emotionally powerful performance throughout the entire night. Beth's haunting and mesmerising voice were left echoing throughout the venue as the song drew to an end, leaving everyone in awe of what was the most strong, yet stunning performance of the night.
Back to the keyboard from here, which had by this stage began playing itself, Beth played along with the technical issue, announcing "We have a problem, it's playing itself- what do I do?" Continuing to play along with it she started free styling on the spot, before the issue was fixed, and she let out an excited "Yee-haw! " before settling in to play to an undoubtedly catchy crowd favourite, ‘Bang Bang Boom Boom,' which had the entire crowd clapping, dancing and singing along.
Remaining at the keyboard, Beth quickly making a change to her set list after suggesting to her band, "lets do this one instead of that one," she followed by playing ‘Tell Em To Hold On' another slower, intense and passionate tune from the upcoming album. "Thank you so much!" Beth remarked as the song delicately faded to an end.
The energy levels rose once again as Hart belted out ‘Monkey Back,' blowing everyone away as she head-banged over her keyboard, letting her gripping soulful, bluesy vocals rip right through from one range to another seemingly effortlessly.
t's one thing to appear thankful and appreciative to an audience, but with Beth you knew it was more than genuine as she, overwhelmed with the response the crowd were continuously feeding her continued to thank the audience over and over again, literally bouncing up and down in her chair with pure excitement and happiness which was so incredibly lovely and heart-warming to see in an artist of her calibre.
Staying at the piano for two more songs, ‘Good As It Gets' and ‘Baddest Blues' were both incredibly catchy tunes which Hart poured her whole heart, soul and energy into performing.
The next song had me imagining I had been transported back to somewhere in the middle of Europe between the 80s - 90s, sitting in a small bar in the middle of a burlesque or cabaret show. As Beth stepped away from her keyboard and took to the centre stage once more, the band began playing the sultry intro, including the inciting clicks which the audience soon joined in to help with, all building up the perfect beginning for ‘If I Tell You I Love You,' from Hart's 2013 album ‘Seasaw,' recorded with Joe Bonamassa. Hart played the part so well, strutting around in her short black dress, leg wrapped around the microphone stand, as her deep and seductive vocals sounded almost like those of Cher's, taking me back to the 2010 movie ‘Burlesque,' a film that could have easily done with this song.
"You guys have been a fricken' awesome audience" Hart acknowledged, before switching back to her rockier self and launching into a loud and energetic ‘Waterfalls,' a tune from her 2011 album, '37 Days.'
For ‘I Am The One,' from her debut album back in 1996, Hart sat on the edge of the stage and let herself get lost in the music as she let it build up around her, not without a dig, joking, "It's ridiculous how short this dress is, I'm 43 for god's sake," she laughed when she first took a seat.
Back to the keyboard, Beth dedicated ‘Mechanical Heart,' another beautiful tune from her upcoming ‘Better Than Home' album to her husband Scott Guetzkow. Finishing off her set with a rocking ‘Trouble' encouraging everyone to wave their hands around in the air for the epic finale, as everyone already singing along had no problems with doing so.
"I love it when we all sing the word ‘mother-fucker' together," Hart laughed, before stating, "It's gotta' be the best word ever recorded," before saying her goodbyes and disappearing off stage, much to the audience's hesitation.
The demand for an encore from the audience was one of the loudest things I have ever witnessed in my life. Breaking out into a mob of foot stomping, clapping, screaming and shouting fans, Hart unaccompanied by her band soon enough returned to the stage once more, also in utter admiration of the audience's response.
The encore was stunning and more than what any one could have possibly wished for, as Hart kicked things off with the beautiful and absolutely stunning ballads ‘St Teresa' and ‘We're Still Living In The City' from the new album, along with her 1999 hit, ‘LA Song' which was undoubtedly a crowd favourite among all, as not one person was left standing still, as everyone joined in clapping and singing along.
Having earlier told the audience of her and husband Scott celebrating their 13th wedding anniversary, Beth went on to end the night on a light note with a song she introduced as ‘Wash Your Feet You Stinky Mother Fucker' earlier joking that the word ‘mother fucker' had to be in there for effect. "Scott's feet fucking stink man, and one day I just got so tired of telling him I went and wrote a song about it," Hart humorously informed the audience as she introduced the song.
The song was of course a hit among the audience, especially including the appearance of Scott who later appeared on stage, as Hart jokingly pulled the fingers at him and then sprung up to give him a big hug as they eventually walked off the stage together.
Now I've been to my fair share of concerts this year already, and although after each one I normally say, "oh this one was definitely the best, "I do believe that Beth Hart has won the competition for the best performance of the year. I was more than disappointed when the night came to an end, so went straight home to blast Beth from my speakers and keep the memory of the night alive.
There's a lot of incredible artists out there with impressive voices and musical styles, but I have yet to see or hear another artist who can top Beth's perfect mix of vocal and musical versatility, down to earth, bubbly stage presence and persona and pure love and energy for music, life and love.
Her performance was definitely one of a kind and definitely not one I will be forgetting in a hurry, that's for sure.