Unlike many of the current highly promoted music acts, Beth Hart doesn’t rap, perform to a backing track or rely on outlandish outfits to create headlines. Rather, to the delight of a capacity crowd at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis February 19th, she simply performs her own songs with a raw intensity unlike anything you’ve experienced driven primarily by her signature voice that’s in a league of its own. Hart credits her turbulent past as the inspiration for much of her song writing. However, this time around she is touring to promote the anticipated April 13th release of Better Than Home, a new album written from a more stable and positive perspective.
Last night, during what I consider to be the best show I’ve attended at the Cedar, Hart gave fired up fans a sampling of the new material strategically mixed into a nicely balanced set of songs from the various genres she’s explored. The party started with Nutbush City Limits, a fiery upbeat tune noticeably penned by Tina Turner, which had Hart replicating some of Turner’s notorious dance moves. The fun continued Hart’s talented band transitioned directly into Delicious Surprise, clearly well known by the many who were singing along. Beth got behind the piano where she does some of her best work and warmed up the pipes a bit during Skin, before switching gears for the sultry and playful Bang Bang Boom Boom.
Hart has named Etta James as an early influence, which was very apparent on Rather Go Blind, one of the evenings many standouts. Sitting back at the piano to offer up two of the new songs, she spoke of how Mechanical Heart was written for her husband and it paired nicely with Tell ‘Em To Hold On. The crowd really was giving off good energy and some of their best participation happened during Trouble. It did not go unnoticed as Beth said she was having such a good time playing for us. The set ended with another beautiful song from the new album Tell Her You Belong To Me, which she dedicated to her father.
A good amount of clapping, stomping, whistles and screams brought the full band back for an encore that started upbeat with Spirit of God. Beth then finish off the show in solo fashion with a couple real crowd pleasers LA Song and My California. She performed these two songs in such a beautiful heartfelt manner that it inspired her husband to run up onstage and give her a kiss of approval. Considering it had been 14 years since Hart last performed in the Twin Cities, there was a good amount of buzz and anticipation leading up to this show, which thankfully delivered on all levels and absolutely lived up to the hype. The band has US and International dates scheduled into August and I hope this latest effort by Beth Hart increases the awareness of just how great an artist she is.
Recognition should go out to supporting artist Matt Andersen from Perth-Andover Canada for a solid opening set. Andersen surprised many with his big, soulful voice and impressive skill over a variety of styles on his acoustic 6-string. Additional appreciation goes out to Sue McLean & Associates and the Cedar Cultural Center for their work in making extraordinary shows like this happen in the Twin Cities.