Beth Hart is not just a performer; to many of her ardent followers she is someone to look up to, someone whose words and actions mirror their lives, someone who knows their pain and also shows how to escape the turmoil of their lives.

Around me in the crowd last night were people like little Emily who told me that Beth Hart had saved her from suicide with her words and the way she had shown how to defeat the same struggles Emily shared with Beth; Alix and Georgina a German lesbian couple who I had met at the Albert Hall show last year (they travelled from Dusseldorf each year to see her) and in Beth Hart saw validation of their strength as women; Robert and Debbie a professional couple who enjoyed Beth’s music as great Blues and admired the way that she changed up her set every year. All the people at the Apollo had their own stories but all of them were there to bask in the performance of someone who spoke to them directly.

And, as usual, Beth did not disappoint. From the very start she was the centre of all our attention, appearing in the midst of the crowd and making her way to the stage, giving hugs and kisses or clasping hands but serenely continuing on while singing ‘There In Your Heart’.

On stage her band - Jon Nichols (guitar), Tom Lilly (bass) & Bill Ransom (drums). – were playing up a storm while behind them a huge video of Beth was dominating the stage. The audience was buzzing as Hart picked herself up and giggled “I just got a load of hugs”.

She played a long set, switching between standing or piano, sometimes just her onstage or with just Tom Lilly on standup bass or through an acoustic section with Jon on acoustic guitar, Bill on a stripped down snare and cymbal set-up and Tom on the standup bass but always, every eye was on Beth Hart and she sang up a storm.

Most of the material was what the crowd wanted to hear – a passionate ‘Sister Dear’ complete with a nod to her re-found relationship with her sister, ‘Tell Her You Belong To Me’, a storming ‘Bad Woman Blues’ and a sassy ‘Sugar Shack’. ‘Waterfalls’ was powerful and strong – Alix singing along with every word – and Beth solo on piano for ‘Baddest Blues’ really brought the darkness out.
There were little mistakes, all bringing cheers from the crowd as she acknowledged them and a few surprises for the band who picked up the pace and di a terrific job as Hart called the changes.

There were a few covers as well. Tom Waits ‘Chocolate Jesus’ was great to hear again – I hadn’t heard her do it since I saw her at Dingwalls around seven years ago – and she seemed to be really having fun with it. There was also a Melody Gardot number, an acoustic ‘If I Tell You I Love You’ that led in to a surprise for the band as they did ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’ acoustic – the band may not have been expecting it but the song really killed as an acoustic number and Hart’s vocal was chilling.

The whole thing finished with Beth singing ‘Woman Down’ solo on piano as an encore and that was it.
Back to reality. Emily rushing to the stage door hoping to meet her saviour, Alix & Georgina off to the airport, smiles all around and people making their way out into the cold Hammersmith night.

Picture by Phil Honley

These are the remaining shpws on her current tour:
St David’s Hall, Cardiff
Wednesday 12th February 2020

Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow
Friday 14th February 2020

The Sage, Gateshead
Saturday 15th February 2020

The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
Monday 17th February 2020

City Hall, Sheffield
Thursday 20th February 2020

The Pavilions, Plymouth
Saturday 22nd February 2020

O2 Guildhall, Southampton
Monday 24th February 2020