Saturday, October 27, 2012

Long Time Coming: Beth Orton live

20 OCTOBER, 2012
In an embarrassment of riches for Santa Barbara, a stretch of three days of top.shelf singer/songwriters hit town.  First up was Beth Orton, fresh off a six year hiatus, celebrating her new LP Sugaring Season on Anti- Records.  Getting married, having kids, breaking writers block, and moving towards more of a pure folk vision all influence this triumphant return to action. 
Soho being a restaurant, as well as a music performance space, is never more evident than on a Saturday night, and after a hello, she immediately called out the audience for talking over the opening act, (her husband Sam Amidon).  It was a nice piece of work, and a far cry from her stage nervousness in days past.  Having cleared the air, she launch into Sugaring Season's opening track "Magpie", and the spell was cast.  Over the course of the evening, she worked in dollops of her back catalogue, including a luminous reading of "Pass In Time" from Central Reservation, but the evening's main focus, as it should be, was on the current.  Joined by Amidon on violin for a few tunes, she maintained her intensity throughout what turned out to be a winning evening.

Sam Amidon provided the opening honors, and in a short set, managed to give a clean accounting of his talents, spinning esoteric stage patter while maintaining a deadpan expression.  He dropped in a John Martyn cover, before switching off to violin, transforming scratchy noise into an intense jig.  After which, he switched off to banjo for a bluegrass excursion, then dropped a cover of Tears For Fears' "Head Over Heels", which seemed to grab the crowd's attention briefly.  His allusion to a babbling brook in the intro to his last song was lost on the three middle aged matrons in front of me, tongues apparently loosened with alcohol, who babbled on ceaselessly, toward the ends of time.

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