304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
This was the first night back performing live for both of these acts, post-pandemic. A smaller, more intimate venue, The Solent Hall within the BIC made for great evenings’ entertainment. New Jersey-born, California raised and now based in Texas, singer-songwriter and guitarist Arielle got things underway with a thirty-minute set of all original material. Discovered originally by Nuno Bettencourt, the former Extreme guitarist, she famously came to the public attention over here for being hand-picked by Brian May to appear in the musical “We Will Rock You,” and her album Analogue Girl in a Digital World. Her opening line of “I’ve been travelling around the UK in my VW Campervan”, got her immediately in tune with the audience.
Arielle’s delivery reminded me so much of other artists, a little Mary Chapin Carpenter, Eva Cassidy, even the wonderful Karen Carpenter, which is meant as a compliment, illustrated by the powerful ‘Voices In My Head’, every word distinguishable.
Whilst she swapped guitars frequently from her carousel alongside her, it was her pride and joy “Two-Tone,” an extraordinary one-of-a-kind guitar she painstakingly designed, and hand-built, with her friend Patrick Yates. Named for its two-tone colour and inclusion of two-tone knobs, it’s a homage to her favourite guitars.
Borrowing the ebony fretboard of a Les Paul, the long-scale neck and reverse headstock of a BC Rich Warlock, Steinberger Tuners, the Pickups/Selectors/Switches from Brian May’s iconic Red Special, the Tremolo/Bridge System from a Fender Jagmaster, and a noise-cancelling silencer from Ilitch Electronics, Two-Tone is bound together with recycled Korina wood often referred to as “super mahogany.” It’s a visionary work of art and one that’s the signature showpiece for “Arielle Guitars,” a custom line of instruments made for women.
The sound was pitch-perfect, especially on the Bread cover ‘If’, she seemed to make it her own. Closing with a song ‘Magick Again’ (her spelling), it referred to her Irish ancestry, written whilst travelling around Ireland (this girl gets around !) on a trip of discovery. She got the Irish folk feel off to a ‘t’, even including a little jig to close with.
We didn’t have a long wait for the main attraction. Along with her band, veteran guitarist Jon Nicols, drummer extraordinaire and the joker in the pack, Bill Ransom and recently recruited and making his debut bassist Tom Lilly, Beth took to the stage to a raucous welcome from the full house. With brief reference to the – ‘you know what, she opened with a beautiful song of faith entitled simply “Thankful”……..what a start!
There then followed “I’ll Take Care Of You”, Bad Woman Blues” and “Delicious Surprise ” in quick succession, to my surprise a group of youngsters in front of me sang along word-perfect, refreshing to see that maybe, at long last, the Blues is not a reflection on how sad things are but, in equal measure, can be happy. Beth then explained that what she had in her mouth was not a spliff, but an artificial cigarette along with a patch on her arm, as she had packed up smoking, stating that when she finally goes, she wants to be buried Egyptian style in the earth with 10 packs of patches……with that she made her way to the piano for a tune more associated with her work with Joe Bonamassa, “Close To My Fire”, Mr Nicols showing he’s no slouch with exquisite guitar work.
“Love Gangster”, a song Beth wrote dedicated to Leonard Cohen with obvious connotations, followed, what a beautiful song. It must be said that after having been away for so long, Beth apologised in advance for any crying that might happen, it certainly was that kind of emotional night, not just for her, but some of the audience as well. Another standout track concerned her father, who ran off with another woman when Beth was six, leaving his wife to bring up the kids. Ten years ago, he came back into her life “Tell Her You Belong To Me” was dedicated to that woman. “Baddest Blues ” was dedicated to Billie Holiday and her (Beth’s) mother.
Dad’s gambling addiction turned up in “Try A Little Harder”. “Sugar Shack” preceded perhaps the most intimate part of the show, where all four members sat, like a group of friends might do, in a row and we were treated to an unplugged session, including “Fat”, “Spanish Lullaby” and Etta James’s “Sunday Kind Of Feeling”…….brilliant and so emotive!
Back to the piano, she went for solo “Take It Easy On Me”
“My California” is dedicated to her husband of 20 years, appreciating how he took her in when she was in a bad place and still looks out for her, collecting and distributing her meds. The floodgates finally burst open, luckily hubby was on hand to give her a reassuring cuddle – another tear-jerker, “LA Song” was the penultimate song of the night, brought to a close with “I’d Rather Go Blind”. It was clear Beth didn’t agree with the curfew, saying she could sing all night, but hubby wanted to protect her voice for the long tour ahead.
In conclusion, what I gained from this performance is that Beth doesn’t just write lyrics, she writes poetry. Her intensity sends every word into your mind, she shares her life with you. Finally, she’s clearly having enormous fun back in front of an audience, declaring loudly “God, I Love This Business!“
Until the next time……..
There is still time to catch Beth Hart in her Thankful UK Tour
with special guest Arielle
Cambridge Corn Exchange – Friday 29 October 2021
York Barbican (Sold Out) – Sunday 31 October 2021
The Forum, Bath – Wednesday 3 November 2021
Bluesdoodles thanks photographers Michael Palmer (Arielle) & Helen Bradley Owers (Beth Hart) for use of their images.