Brighton Festival 2016
Beth Orton has been one of the country’s most unique and beguiling voices in contemporary music for the past two decades.
It is a little known fact that Beth Orton’s interests in her early career revolved mainly around theatre; first training for the stage at the Young Actors Theatre in Islington and then touring with a Fringe Theatre Company in the UK, Ukraine and Russia. We can only be thankful that at some point she realised that true artistic expression, for her, would only be fully realised through her love of modern folk music together with a unique blend of electronic sound, which would come to be known as ‘folktronica.’
Back in 1997, the release of her second album ‘Trailer Park’ earned her nominations for two Brit Awards for best British newcomer, best British female, and the winner of the Mercury Music Prize. In the same year, she had her first UK Top 40 single with ‘She Cries Your Name’ for which she is arguably still best known.
This concert is an inspiring mix of Beth’s electronic and folk roots, but with more of an emphasis on the electronic. Her soulful and beguiling voice is tantalising enough to enthral an audience and this concert did not disappoint. To put it simply, the set was largely divided into two sections; the first leaning heavily towards her electronic range whist the second, drew on her more acoustic roots. On the night I was there, the sound balance could have been improved since the heavy electronic accompaniment twinned by click-tracks seemed to drown out the lyrics to the point where at times, they became hard to comprehend although this may have also been down to the circular design of the venue which appeared to cause some reverberation.
However, the more acoustic range allowed clarity of lyrics to shine through and the performance seemed to up a gear into the realms of what I had come to expect from this fine performer. When Beth is in full swing, she seems capable of inspiring her audience into another, higher creative environment. Her compositions are so carefully constructed and every detail of a track is honed to perfection. This is why, after all these years she is still touring, releasing new albums and able to produce surprisingly new and diverse compositions. Putting aside the half-hour wait for her to appear on stage and certain audio difficulties as described, this concert showed there is much life left in the once girl from East Derham, who now resides in the USA with her husband and splendid young family who happened to be sitting next to us during the evening.
Dismiss Beth Orton at your ultimate peril!