by FIONA SHEPHERD www.scotsman.com
FIONA Shepherd reviews Beth Orton as she tours her second album, Central Reservation
Beth Orton ABC, Glasgow Star rating; * * *
The somewhat scatty Beth Orton says she is not used to the luxury of a guitar roadie, preferring to tune the strings herself – possibly her underused tech support came as part of the package when she was persuaded to tour the re-release of her second and most acclaimed album, Central Reservation – something else she felt the need to apologise for. Her fans, however, were happy to immerse in its calm, balmy sounds.
Once the vocalist of choice for The Chemical Brothers, Orton was teaming wistful folk songs with a light smattering of chillout electronica a decade before Ellie Goulding was a glint in her record company’s eye. But Orton’s music is not as faddy as that description might suggest. The subtly crafted singer-songwriter material from Central Reservation has aged gracefully.
The jazzy country infusion of Sweetest Decline was an early highlight with its warm acoustic guitar sound, mellow throb of double bass and elegant ambling piano. The only jarring element was Orton’s recurring tendency to bleat her lyrics and only half-form the words but this affectation was rectified on a handful of songs from her latest album Sugaring Season where her softer, slightly mysterious folky tone and her husband Sam Amidon’s fiddle playing allied to beguiling effect.
While Orton and band were never required to rock out, the fuller pop production of Shopping Trolley, driving rhythm and keyboards of Central Reservation and her breakthrough hit She Cries Your Name provided dynamic contrast.
Revisiting her Central Reservation could have been a dry curatorial exercise, but Orton’s infectious irreverence and musical detours made for an engaging album gig
Beth Orton Performs At The O2 ABC In Glasgow
It’s been 15 years since the release of Central Reservation, the polished mix of folk, jazz and dance-inflected astral tweaks that bagged Beth Orton a Brit award and solidified her enduring image as the queen of palliative post-club playlists. An anniversary-marking double-album edition came out this week, with Orton embarking on a mini tour to support it. In front of a hushed, seated audience, she seems a little bemused by the whole thing. “I’m not sure what you’re supposed to do when you rerelease a record,” she confides. “I feel like I should tell a story.” In the end, Orton destarches the reverent atmosphere by goofing around between songs, pulling faces and teasing her four-piece band.
At these sort of gigs, artists generally play the album in sequence, before throwing in some hits for the encore, and Orton initially sticks to the blueprint. Stolen Car remains a deceptively purposeful opener: despite the refrain about “the feeling that I just do not belong”, it’s Orton’s vocal line that consistently preempts and leads the song. After the soft swing of Sweetest Decline and shimmering Couldn’t Cause Me Harm, she goes off-piste, reordering tracks seemingly on the fly and interpolating newer songs, such as the cheerfully ramshackle Shopping Trolley and the soothing, chugging Call Me the Breeze. These detours, and Orton’s infectious irreverence, enliven what could have been a dry curatorial exercise. Almost all of Central Reservation gets revisited, including the title track, in a loop-enhanced version that acknowledges the impact of its various remixes. But Orton holds back some key songs for the encore, including the album’s seven-minute centrepiece, Pass in Time. The original features backing vocals from the late Terry Callier, but Orton’s solo version, just her and her guitar, is also a spine-tingling marvel.
O2 Glasgow review
ON TRACK: BETH Orton ‘revisted’ classic tracks on her latest tour.
As strange as it is for the listener to hear their favourite albums reinterpreted as part of the current trend for classic album tours, it must be stranger still for the artist.
Beth Orton has travelled a more twisted road than most in the lead-up to the release of her last album, Sugaring Season, in late 2012.
This, perhaps, explained her apparent awkwardness with the songs from her BRIT-winning 1999 release, Central Reservation.
Billed as that album “revisited” to coincide with a double-disc reissue, this show hinted at a full-band album run-through – a pretence that was dropped with the early inclusions of Paris Train, Shopping Trolley and latest single Mystery in the set.
There was no point, Orton explained, in her playing the album from beginning to end because “it wouldn’t sound like the record”.
While it’s true that the Beth Orton of 2014 has replaced the trip-hop stylings of a William Orbit remix with plaid shirts and double bass.
Nobody was looking for note-perfect renditions of songs – which was just as well.
Orton’s voice, grown more ragged and bruised through the years, filled the better reinterpretations with heart and humility, while occasional contributions from husband Sam Amidon on violin and earthy backing vocals hinted at how beautiful a folkier and more coherent performance could have sounded.
Still, the title track remained as perfect an encapsulation of the hope and the loneliness of the morning after – complete with a second half band performance in homage to the song’s many remixes – while acoustic performances of Pass In Time and Feel To Believe as an encore were a delight.