24 March 2014 (released)
02 April 2014
The collaboration between Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa sounds as though it was made in heaven. She has a great voice, full of power and ‘oomph’ and the subtlety of his playing backs her perfectly. I saw her at London’s Dingwalls a couple of years ago and what struck me was how she coped with the smaller and more personal numbers just as well as the power stuff and this set captures that perfectly.
She sings Blues and soul with the same passion and punch and when she takes a Jazz standard like ‘Them There Eyes’ her performance makes the song her own. Bonamassa’a light touch is remarkable – far from the big Blues we all know him for.
All too often Blues on the large scale tends to be cold and creates a feeling of separation between the band and the audience but Beth Hart is one of those rare artists that actually can bring the crowd up onstage – metaphorically – and makes her performance feel personal to everyone in the crowd. It also helps that the band seem to be having a good time as well and with Bonamassa able to take less of a frontman role the band cook around him
‘Sinners Prayer’ is a ballsy Blues number and Bonamassa rips out some wicked slide but Hart’s vocal is the star showing range like you wouldn’t believe and a huge, smokey presence.
The pair take Bill Withers ‘For My Friends’ places that it was never originally intended to go, turning it into a huge rock/Blues but it works and Bonamassa rips out one of his trademark soloes that you just want to go on forever but then they move straight into a stunning, hot and sexy version of Pop & Hoppe’s ‘Close To My Fire’ that just burns. Hart summons up her inner Etta James for a storming ‘Something’s Got A Hold Of Me’ which has the crowd dancing along with the horn section and then Hart brings it all down as she does a wonderful version of Melody Gardot’s ‘Your Heart Is As Black As Night’ with Hart sitting on the edge of the stage and the audience totally enraptured by her performance.
Hart takes to the piano for a great version of Tom Waits ‘Chocolate Jesus’ with Bonamassa tearing out a great solo on his Telecaster and a harrowing version of Hart’s own ‘Baddest Blues’ followed by a Bonamassa led version of Freddie King’s ‘Someday After A While (You’ll Be Sorry) which shows just how good a singer Bonamassa can be too.
Song after song show off both Hart’s vocal and Bonamassa’s guitar but also just how many great songs are out there. Melody Gardot gets another airing on ‘If I Tell You I Love You’ and then they rock out Don Covay & Steve ropper’s ‘See Saw’ before one of the real standup numbers.
It takes real guts to take on ‘Strange Fruit’ and huge talent to do it without sounding like a weak attempt at Billie Holiday’s classic and Bonamassa’s solo echoes Hart’s vocal in taking you to a horrific and dark place without any letup or ease.
On album their version of ‘Nutbush City Limits’ kicks ass but live you can see that Beth Hart was born to sing this song.
The encore of ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’ is fine, all arm waving soul and heaps of fun and a great way to close a show.