REVIEW: Beth Hart, Pyramids Centre, Portsmouth

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Even a below-par Beth beats the rest on a night which grew and grew as the monstrously-talented LA-based singer wowed the crowds.

Hart admitted early on she wasn’t feeling great, and in truth, it took her a few songs to find her mojo, but once she did, it was the Beth of old, packing immense power into everything from the raunchiest of rock to the most tender and beautiful of ballads.

Hart is a performer with enormous presence, churning out numbers from a troubled life which has brought her to a happy place now; and it was terrific to hear so much from her latest album, Bang Bang Boom Boom, not least its title track, but also her little foray into a jazzier mood with Swing My Thing Back Around.

But she wasn’t the only star on the night. Everything she did was matched by guitarist PJ Barth, a wonderfully-fluid player who plays with precisely the kind of passion Hart brings to her vocals.

My California seemed destined once again to be the highlight until they launched into I’d Rather Go Blind, Hart’s voice duetting with Barth’s guitar in a dazzling performance. In between times, lightening the load, we had songs where Beth’s trademark intelligence is mixed with an appealing wit. Chocolate Jesus and The Ugliest House on the Block are always going to be favourites; so too is her classic about her husband’s stinky feet.

Beth’s heart might not have been in it at the start of the night, but it certainly was by the end.

Phil Hewitt