Beth Hart – Live At The Royal Albert Hall | Album Review

Beth Hart – Live At The Royal Albert Hall

Provogue/Mascot Music Group

23 songs – 121 minutes

West Coast singer/songwriter Beth Hart has established herself as the undisputed queen of live blues recordings, something she drives home in style with this release, the third two-CD concert set she’s released in the past five years.

A fiery blues-rocker who sometimes crosses over to pop and a three-time Blues Blast Music Awards honoree as female artist of the year, Hart’s a Los Angeles native who prefers other locales — Live In Amsterdam with Joe Bonamassa in 2014 and last year’s Front And Center (Live From New York) – to capture her performances.

This is Beth’s 20th album since her 1996 debut with Immortal. She’s shared credits with a wide variety of musicians on previous discs – including Neal Schon of Journey, Slash of Guns N’ Roses, jazz harmonica virtuoso Toots Thielemans, Jeff Beck and Buddy Guy, but goes solo here, backed by her skin-tight four-piece band.

As usual, Hart handles keyboards, acoustic guitar and bass with big assists from guitarist Jon Nichols, percussionist Bill Ransom and bassist Bob Marinelli in this collection of four covers and 19 originals, which vary in intensity as they deal with the full range of human emotion. Available either as a two-CD set or released with an accompanying DVD, the concert opens with a beautiful, solo acapella take on “As Long As I Have A Song” before the band explodes with the driving rocker, “For My Friends.”

Beth urges the audience to get out of their seats before launching into Bill Withers’ “Lifts You Up,” which includes a little call-and-response that gets the crowd deeply involved in her performance. The mood changes with “Close To My Fire,” an unhurried blues ballad, before picking up steam with “Bang Bang Boom Boom.” Hart’s voice shines like a diamond on “Good As It Gets,” takes you to church with “Spirit Of God” and then quiets to a whisper for the ballad “Baddest Blues.”

The feeling continues for the opening of “Sister Heroine,” which picks up intensity as it progresses, before the blues-rocker “Baby Shot Me Down” heat things up again. The tune “Waterfalls” takes on the feel of a field holler before the first disc concludes with a deep blues ballad, a cover of Melody Gardot’s “Your Heart Is As Black As Night.”

The second half of the set opens with a rapid-fire take on “Saved,” a tune penned by Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller and a hit for LaVern Baker in 1960. The fan favorite, “The Ugliest House On The Block,” leads into “Spiders In My Bed,” which describes a sleepless night as a lover wonders if Beth’s going to snooze the day away. The ballad “Take It Easy On Me” follows as it begs for gentle, loving treatment before Hart launches in to “Leave The Light On,” one of her most familiar numbers.

“Mama This One’s For You,” which gives thanks for everything the lady’s done, takes on special meaning because Hart’s mother is seated in the audience. The dedications continue with “My California,” which goes out to Beth’s husband, Scott Guetzkow, before the mood explodes once again with the rocker “Trouble.” Three more originals – “Love Is A Lie,” “Picture In A Frame” and “Caught Out In The Rain” – bring the set to a close.

Available through most major retailers, Live At The Royal Albert Hall is a winner on all counts. Give this one a listen if your tastes run toward modern blues – and catch Beth Hart live if you can. As this set shows, you definitely won’t be disappointed.

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