Anson Rooms | 29th September

Somehow in the numerous years I’ve been in Bristol I’ve not been to a gig at the Anson Rooms. They’re very professional here; greeting you at the door with two people to check your hand is stamped, got to love quality control. Walking past a bar not out of place in a theatre, I entered the main room which felt like a large school hall someone had kitted out for gigs. In fact I think I could still smell some gym shoes?

Despite a slightly clinical appearance, they’d created quite a mood with the lighting and a cluster of enormous white balloons with Beth Orton projected across them. Throughout the night they cycled through various splices of colourful film over these and it made for an entertainingly disorientating display.

She started the set with ‘Moon’ which epitomised the first segment with it’s synth played sparse melodies and distinctively 90’s pop feel accompanied with that creeping of trip hop noises littered throughout which was typical of that era. It would be totally unfair to compare the performance to Dido but there are certainly similarities. She has that same sort of earthed quality abandoned by your more Katy Perry, Lady Gaga type pop singers; whereas Beth Orton manages to balance the singer/songwriter ilk with her catchy radio friendly aspects.

It was interesting to hear the subtlety of her song writing in a live performance. Much like the studio versions, most songs start off quite gently with little fanfare but seep in over their course creating a patient gravitas. Even with ‘Electric Sky’s Blondie/Human League type sounds it was still tempered with that same delicately paced feel.

The highlight was the track ‘Petals’ which she partially explained as being written during a state of deep grief and having found herself watching falling petals with fascination. She sung it with an elegant fragility in her voice and utter conviction as her silky rendition of it beautifully slide one word into the next. It’s a tricky balance positioning devastating mournfulness alongside joyful appreciation of the world without coming across as pretentious, self pitying or just down right corny.

Especially when recounting the endless tears you shed. This was done immaculately and the rotating keyboard notes ringing in the background were brilliantly evocative of falling petals.

The average make up of the crowd was mainly 30 plus which was noticeable when she broke out the acoustic guitar to play ‘Pass In Time’ from the excess of their applauding appreciation. The overall performance, far from lacklustre, was a step behind how electrified she seemed to become at this point. It gained her so much credibility with me as it showed she’d lost none of the passion which originally went into its writing.


Watch the video for ‘Stolen Car’ below.