Beth Orton, Holy Trinity Cathedral, Saturday 18 May LIVE REVIEW

May 19, 2013
1 min read

Latitude Festival 2008I HAVE READ the name Beth Orton many times. I have never listened to her music. I was offered tickets to her Cathedral show on Saturday night. I said yes. This coincided with a friend’s 60th. I knew she liked female singer-songwriter material. Turns out we were both in the same boat – a name we knew, but had not listened to. Looking around the people queuing outside the cathedral, we were both well within what semmed to be the Beth Orthon demographic: white and post middle-aged.

We experienced Eb & The Sparrow. Wonderful steel guitar sounds echoing through the cathedral. Everything in reverb, and what the hell was she singing about? I have very little idea. Still, for five or so numbers, not offputting.

Beth Orton entered, wearing a poncho. Mmm (was my first disapproving thought). Remember, I am an Orton virgin. She opened with an a cappella number. Mmm. Okay. She proceeded to show us two styles throughout the evening, the first being the flurried strum of early material where she sounded like a wannabe Joni Mitchell. The second being a folk finger-picking style, with one string especially poorly tuned, the same vocal inflections and, er, seemingly very similar melodies and song structure. Lyrics – forget about cohesion because her diction is appalling. Fragments of lyrics come through but not enough to complete a narrative.

bethortonShe played piano twice. She has a clumsy, clumpy way with the keyboard. Very distracting. The mike at the piano was better for her voice. I was vaguely reminded of Laura Nyro. Very vaguely.
After about six songs people began walking out. I would like to have gone as well. My friend was eyes closed, as if in another world. I found out later we were both on the same page.

Beth Orton continued for what seemed liked forever, singing the same indecipherable song until “Thankyou Auckland”, and we were out of there.

If you are going to tour with just your acoustic guitars, my suggestion to Beth Orton is to get diction lessons and learn how to tune those guitars.

I have heard her music, and from now on will only read her name. JAMES BRADFIELD

Steel has been penning his pungent prose for 40 years for publications too numerous to mention, most of them consigned to the annals of history. He is Witchdoctor's Editor-In-Chief/Music and Film Editor. He has strong opinions and remains unrepentant. Steel's full bio can be found here


  1. Wow. Sounds harsh, but I wasn’t there. I have heard her live, and it could not have been a more different experience. Th concert in Auckland had all the hallmarks and expectations of being excellent, and yet…

    Irrespective, I would recommend trying some of her recorded music. It’s really very good. Or maybe I’m blinkered, biased, or whatever.

  2. I think you were at a different concert to the one I was at on Saturday night… and pretty much every other person I have spoken to that went. I found Beth to be a stunning performer. Her voice was heartbreaking and beautiful and I was almost in tears at the beauty and fragility in her voice. Her songs are like beautiful poetry and I am really astonished at your review. Were you sitting in a pocket of the church where you could not hear?? You will find the people “getting up to leave” were going to the bathroom – I saw people, like at most shows, get up to use toilet and then return to seats. I also think the crowd was a mix of ages – people around me in 20s and 30s, to the left in their 40s. Sad you haven’t educated yourself with Beth’s music until now, if you were a fan of her style you would have seen what a stunning show this was. Instead of writing a boring and inaccurate review like you have done. What music do you like? Katy Perry and One Direction is my bet. Personally, I found the concert to be absolutely brilliant and I couldn’t recommend her live show enough to people.

  3. Would respectfully suggest that you do not accept any more free tickets to concerts and that you do not review any more music as it is patently obvious you were born with a pair of cloth ears,and have no idea how to research prior material from said artist before attending concert.

  4. Interestingly, the consensus appears to be with Mr Bradfield. Here are a few sample comments from social media: “Spot on there, the Wellington gig was exactly the same, yet for some reason the crowd stayed…I was an usher there, and wanted to leave, but sadly had to suffer 90 mins of her noise.” “This was one of the worst gigs I’ve ever seen…her songs sounded bare, she was unfunny, fucked up songs and started again, and her voice, well it droned on, it seemed like each song was an extended version or alternative chapter to the last. Unlike Paul Kelly, there was no standing ovation. I was astonished that she could be so average, considering some of her albums are quite decent.” And: “Excellent review, she’s a total hack; and appropriately enuff her moneyed ad exec brother “Rupert” is one of the jackasses who foisted Seasick Shteve on the planet and who plays in some godawful haircut band himself. Utter, utter tosh.”

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