Beth Orton – Barbican

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Why this gig?

There was a time that I thought I’d never get to see Beth Orton live. By the time I got back into going to gigs, she had pretty much disappeared from the music scene – she hadn’t released an album in years and never seemed to play live.

But then, in late 2012, she emerged with a new album and started playing live. Since then I’ve seen her a couple of times. I’ve enjoyed the shows, but I pretty much decided that I didn’t have to see her every time she played in London.

So I probably wouldn’t have seen this show if it wasn’t for the fact that it was celebrating the release of a new, extended, version of Central Reservation, which is my favourite of her albums. That made it an essential show.

Support

Support was from David Thomas Broughton. I’d never heard of him, but he’s apparently been around for several shows. It’s a very compelling performance. He played for about forty minutes with only one break. He plays with a loop pedal and it’s never really clear when one song ends and the next one starts. At points he just leaves the tape looping and wanders around the stage picking things up or emptying out his pockets. I don’t think that everyone enjoyed him, but I’ll definitely be looking out for a chance to see him again.

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Beth and band wander onto stage and launch into “Stolen Car”. It’s the opening track on Central Reservation and therefore the obvious place to start. It’s my favourite of her songs and, unfortunately, a slightly lacklustre performance makes it a disappointing start to the set. But they warm up quickly and things improve tremendously.

I assumed they would play the album through in order (that’s how this shows usually work) but after five or six songs they serve off and play “Someone’s Daughter” from Orton’s earlier album, Trailer Park. And that’s followed by “Call Me the Breeze” from Sugaring Season.

But we’re soon back to Central Reservation, and that’s where we stay for most of the evening. We get most of that album and a small smattering of other songs. Towards the end of the set we get a particularly impressive version of “Galaxy of Tenderness”.

The encore opens with “She Cries Your Name”. But there are still a couple of Central Reservation songs to go and Beth ends the encore with “Reason to Believe” – one that I was very keen to hear. The crowd’s applause pulls her back for a second encore and she gives us “Shopping Trolley” to close the evening.

It has been an impressive performance of some of her finest songs.

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