Beth Orton and The Green Monster

“And everything is sacred here, And nothing is as sacred as I want it to be.” — From Central Reservation by Beth Orton

“Central Reservation” makes me think of last summer, pool-house doors open to the yard. The song itself reminds me of that Minnie Ripperton song from the 80′s, “Loving You.”

“Loving you is easy ’cause you’re beautiful.” Check it out. Almost the same song.


It’s hard for me to listen to music and just enjoy it sometimes. It’s like all the hurt of life is being kept at bay. I’m going along. I’m accepting that life is change and change is alright. But then I’m at a show. I’m watching and listening and the monsters come alive in me. Suddenly, I’m not going along and I’m not accepting life is change and I don’t feel change is alright. And what I feel instead is that all the carefully tucked away feelings of hurt, disappointment, regret, envy, and longing, have sprung free and are pressing up against my heart and my tear ducts and, I swear, it’s almost unbearable. I just want to go home and play the guitar.

I looked over at the peaceful, happy and appreciative face of my friend, Steven. He was loving it. My feelings were more complicated. I was loving it too. But I was wishing it was going to be my turn to play after. I was feeling time-warp stuff, too. I was looking around and wondering where everybody was that I used to know. Where did they go?

Beth Orton walked onto the stage last night at the Hiro Ballroom, wearing a black A-line mini dress with shiny sequins. She was sporting a great rock and roll hair cut, bangs and long layers; her long, skinny legs were sheathed in black stockings. Only the flat brown boots she wore gave it away. She is the same geeky girl she always was.

In an intimate, acoustic set, filled with old and new songs, accompanied by Rob Moose on guitar, mandolin, steel guitar and piano, Beth joked and giggled. She seemed more relaxed than I’ve ever seen her, perhaps because it was the second of two sets. When she made mistakes, she grimaced and cursed. She charmed the audience with her sweet silliness.

Her voice seemed a little tired at first; she stayed in her mid-range and struggled a bit with a high note, but as the set went on, it opened up. What a beautiful voice she has, a warm alto, deliciously rough around the edges. She has beautiful tone in her upper register, too, which you hear a lot more in her recordings than live, but it’s really something when it happens live.I’m not as familiar with her newer material, but there were a couple of real beauties in the new songs. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the titles. Near the end of the set she killed with versions of “Central Reservation” and “Sugar Boy.”

The crowd sat cross-legged in front of the stage, sprawled, slouched and leaned, comfortably all over the club. The Hiro Ballroom is a beautiful space with hanging paper lanterns, low couches, round booths and a bar along one elevated wall. We estimated the capacity to be around four hundred, or maybe three hundred. Or maybe we weren’t so good at estimating capacity.

But it was a great show. Beth got to that place near the end, where she was channeling something profound through that beautiful instrument of hers. It’s like watching someone speak in tongues or something. I’ve had it happen to me. It feels amazing. You need an audience of people really listening. You need to be well-rehearsed and warmed up. You’re just singing and it kicks in. It’s like another speed, another level. Everybody is holding you in the place of it with their love and attention. It’s unique. There is nothing else that feels like it. I’m not saying there’s nothing else that feels as good.

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2 Responses to Beth Orton and The Green Monster

  1. PE says:

    Returning to an artistic scene can be like returning to one’s hometown after being away for years. Your new songs are wonderful. Just keep writing and reconnection will follow.

  2. alison says:

    I know what you mean about that other level, I’ve experienced it as an audience member now and then, when all distractions fall away. It is rare, I think, even with the greats (though a simulation can be manufactured.)

    I’ve imagined that it must be what surfing is like: you’re out there paddling on the waves, when suddenly one wave gathers itself under you, and lifts you, and you straighten up and your balance is perfect, and you fly… you fly all the way to the beach.

    I neither perform nor surf! But I wonder if that’s why some performers are hooked on the road, with the ‘neverending tours’. Maybe they keep looking for that wave.

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