...ontheroad

I'm not bräve, just naïve...

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Oh Beth...

You might remember, a little while back, when I waxed lyrical about Belle and Sebastian prior to their recent concert in Montréal. B+S have been with me through thick and thin for the last ten years, so as a fan of their music I reserve the right to be forgiving if I don't entirely agree with the new direction of their music.

During the B+S gig at the Metropolis, here in Montréal back in February, the band let slip their lack of confidence in the said 'new direction' with a revealing bit of musical programming. After a belting opening number ('The State That I Am In') that got everyone's head bopping and feet tapping, they slipped into the dangerous new-song-old-song pattern. They tried to keep the long term fans happy by propping up less successful new material with the classics. And it worked. Sort of. We didn't mind, but we knew what they were up to, and we'll be watching with interest to see what the next album sounds like.

Tonight, however, there was no propping up going on. Ryan, Jonathan and I headed down to Club Soda on Saint Laurent for a stunning little night out, with my long term musical love, Beth Orton. If B+S have been with me for a good ten years, then Beth's not far behind with a personal connection stretching back to 1999 or 2000, when our open Saturday morning English class allowed students to bring in a piece of music to start the day. I owe a great debt to a man named Duncan who shares my surname: he brought us 'Blood Red River' - a dark little track that is often overlooked from the album 'Central Reservation'. I was hooked, and have been with Beth ever since. In fact, tonight's gig marked a stepping stone - she is the only musician I've been to see live twice. The last time was a one night gig at the Electric Ballroom in Camden in (?) 2002 or 2003, when I was towing along behind a now ex-girlfriend. That was a great night, and tonight more than matched the impression of the first.

When we arrived, I was astonished by the perfect dimensions and atmosphere of the club - Willy Mason was just getting going with the support show (with a talented young violinist whose name I did not catch - please leave a comment if you were there and know her name). The decor was cosy (everything in deep red, even the strings of lights slung loosely from the upper mouth of the stage to the back wall... and the music was top notch. I didn't expect such a powerful warm up act ... I would gladly pay the same again just to see Willy Mason. His alt-country tunes set a good context - where do we place Beth Orton's music, now that her sound has evolved from vulnerable wavering heartbreak to confident bluesy punch. I don't care if that last sentence doesn't make sense... it's late, I'm tired and I'm trying hard to get down the emotions I felt tonight before they evaporate in the cold early hours. Beth belongs in the alt-country category, but coming from England (and from the east of England like me) her American influences are more than just vernacular... they're something that has been applied over an already gutsy folk tradition....

During the concert, however, I often started thinking of another young lady far away... and my arm started to rise up in front of me, as if to describe the embrace I could imagine as we both faced the stage, each pair of eyes fixated on the only musician on stage wearing white (neat trick to enrapture an audience, don't you think). The songs of love and heartbreak that Beth Orton sings hit you slowly, but when they get you they make your limbs tremble and they make your feet undermine your balance.

I need to sleep.

*j*

Edited on 10 April to clarify that in the last pargraph, I am refering to my love for BM, not Beth Orton... sorry, just drunk typing, not a revelation of betrayal, I promise :)

2 Comments:

Anonymous ulli said...

You don't sound drunk to me... It's a shame I didn't know about Beth earlier, otherwise I would have bought a ticket and come with you. Another time.

6:59 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was nina violet
www.myspace.com/ninaviolet

5:22 am  

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