Well finally- the inside of the Kunst!Palast! Not an oil painting in sight (or maybe it was too dark to see them). When the lights did come on though they alighted on a lady whose stage power could have driven the whole lighting rig. Beth Hart has recently played with high-flying guitar heroes like Slash and Jeff Beck, she’s even made entire CD’s with Mr Joe Bonamassa. Tonight she’s out to prove herself hotter than the weather – and boy does she prove it!
“Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy on me”. The opening line of Ray Charles’ soulful ballad rings round the Kunst!Palast. gritty, world weary words from someone who’s been to the edge and made it back – just. In a recent interview with General Anzeiger Beth Hart seemed a bit uptight about being asked about her problematic past as if it had nothing to do with her music. In reality it has everything to do with her music – precisely because it’s the reason she sings not merely from her heart but from her very soul. She can rock with the best of them for sure, but it’s when her heart comes out on her sleeve that Beth really rises several cuts above the rest. Gospel tinged classics like ‘Sky full of Clover’ or deepest blues like ‘Baddest Blues’ where only someone who has truly been on the road down could sound so like the immortal Billie Holiday. The level of intensity is such that Hart stops after a verse of ‘Sister Heroine’ because the band is in the wrong key. “Sh*t – do I have to do that whole intro over again?!” she bemoans, and then she just does so – and with an intensity that seems even higher than the seemingly unassailable level before.
I suspect being a part of Beth’s band you really have to be a cool dude with a steady heartbeat. There WAS a setlist taped on the stage. I certainly saw it early on. It actually stood for nothing on the night though. A roadie would thread his way round backstage with an acoustic guitar only for guitarist Jon Nichols to hear as he strapped it on that Beth wanted to “try something else”. The band would look aghast as if they’d never heard of the song suggested – and then play it superbly. “A damned good band with two smoking lead guitarists, a great rhythm section, including a F*ck*ng good drummer, in her own words, really good drum solo, and a bassist doing exactly what was necessary, and doing it well” is how John Harrison described the musicians later. Right on the button too. I love seeing big men bashing hell out of what appears like a kiddies drumkit behind their bulky frames – step forward Bill Ransom. The sort of players that only seem to come from the USA in fact.
Suffice to say that with high caliber backing like this the inside of the new Kunst!Palast tent got a good decibel pulverising at times. Beth Hart and Band can ROCK (make that double size ‘Rock’ in block letters!) The second encore of ‘Miss Lady’ threatened to tear the new roof off with it’s sheer power.
Ah yes, the ‘Palace’ tent. I’m on the subject so it has to be said that ‘Palast’ (Palace) is a bit heady for this somewhat ponderous construction. Rather dark, foreboding and lacking in atmosphere were my thoughts on entering. It certainly brightened up with the million watts of pure adrenalin that is Beth Hart though and I can see the logic of not putting medium sized acts in front of a 10.000 capacity Open Air stage. Perhaps Heino will fare better crowd-wise, but finding bands for a venue that is bigger than the Harmonie and smaller than Kunst!Rasen is a tricky proposition and any criticism at this early stage is unfair. Right now I’m glad of the extra venue. I’m sure the organizers are learning and re-planning after every performance at Kunst!Palast right now.
Beth Hart is certainly someone I would go see again in a heartbeat, although preferably in the more intimate atmosphere of the Harmonie. As it was, deliberating over the show afterwards, John Harrison caught the mood of the evening very succinctly: Beth Hart he concluded had “wriggled her butt and kicked ass” on stage with both a passion and an attitude that the’ average person’ couldn’t even begin to imagine”. The remark reminded me of Beth’s intro earlier to ‘Bang Bang, Boom Boom’. Who else would sit down quietly at the piano, pause for thought, then loudly announce “This is a fu*king love song about two people wanting to blow each other away…”? A fine evening of Rock and Blues songs not so much from the heart, as from the depth of a deep, deep well that is Beth Harts soul.