Monday, 7 September 2009

Tumbledown heartbreak

After a day of wind and sunshine and free klezmer in Regent's Park,
evening entertainment of a different order.

Courtesy of a good Australian friend, who surprised me with the ticket
for my birthday, we go to see an artist I have loved since teenage days
in an intimate performance marking her return after a year out raising
babies. Beth Orton. For me, this is a name that conjures up sweet
melancholy, heartrending acoustic guitar and lush poetical lyrics of
love and loss. To The Boy, however, she embodies my taste in music -
what he flippantly calls "bedwetter music".

The venue: the Pigalle Club, tucked away in plain view on Piccadilly
Circus, a pocket of luxe and old time glamour in the throbbing heart
of tourist-tat-land. A supper club more famous for launching the
career of burlesque star Immodesty Blaze and for its celebrated
"afternoon tease" (yes, that's tea and cakes and burlesque!), it was a
surprisingly charming venue for such a gig.

The artist: Beth Orton is sweet yet tough, an emotionally mature
little pixie, a tomboy in jeans and a plaid shirt who could break your
heart with a hoarse whispered line. On stage, she is unsure, self-
mocking, ebullient, whimsical, shy, quirky, funny. She mocks the
audience with an off-balance charm. This is her first "proper" show in
ages and she bubbles over with enjoyment and love of making music: "I
like singing songs" she bashfully confides.

The music: swirling, transporting. At times, bare guitar and voice,
alternated with gluttonous harmonies of guitar, mandolin, banjo,
piano. Melodies that almost physically lift you up. Technically
imperfect - chords are missing, lyrics half-forgotten - but this just
adds to the tumbledown heartbreak charm of the thing. Just beautiful.

And she played all my favourites!


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