Beth Orton The Garage, London
Friday 14 February 1997
Luckily, Orton doesn't play those games; her aside about misery only made you warm to her. Her dance-influenced folk was unmannered, laid back, smiling - as unfazed by buzzing gremlins in the sound system ("sounds like the south of France in here") as she was intent on getting across her songs.
Even the lead singer of the support act, Travis, the promised next-big- thing, hadn't read the manual that says that up-and-coming rock gods need attitude, not a big grin. Instead, they delivered pulsing bass lines overlain with chromatic guitar lines, tied together with honest-to-goodness tunes; even if one of their numbers was on more than nodding terms with Abba's "The Winner Takes it All". But with pop references like that, how can you fail?
Of course, there's always a danger in trying to stuff too many references into a song. Acoustic-guitar based singer/ songwriter meets the Chemical Brothers' club sound might smack of experiment for its own sake. But not with Beth Orton. She marries a folk sensibility and a gift for wistful lyricism with keyboards and shuffling drum breaks without it ever taking the easy (and these days ubiquitous) route of grafting on trip-hip rhythms as an afterthought.
The mesmerising "She Cries Your Name", for example, opened with a crescendo of soaring, giddying, treated violins, which moved on to a lament about the impermanence of love, Orton's voice resonant, yet on the edge of cracking. Another highlight was her haunting version of the Phil Spector-penned "I Wish I Never Saw the Sunshine". Its sparse structure, which recalls the stripped-down arrangements that Tim Friese-Greene brought to Talk Talk, allows the beauty of the melody and lyrics to be laid bare.
That song had a clarity of purpose that was occasionally missing in her performance - all the elements were there but the net effect having all the punch (without the vocal strength) of Tanita Tikaram's folksy fare. But this is a unique and magical sound - the best antidote to the manufactured kookiness the chart demands of its female artists. And her smile is infectious.
Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search
ReviewThese heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Jack the Ripper: Scientist who claims to have identified notorious killer has 'made serious DNA error'
- 2 Banksy arrest hoax: Internet duped by fake online report claiming artist's identity has been revealed
- 3 Former East 17 frontman Brian Harvey turns up at Downing Street and 'demands to speak to Prime Minister'
- 4 Kentucky gang rape: 15-year-old boy left in critical condition after sexual attack by group at party
- 5 Paralysed man Darek Fidyka walks again after treatment by British doctors on brink of 'cure'
James Blunt finally admits the truth: 'You're Beautiful' is annoying
Downton Abbey review series 5, episode 5: Period drama falls disappointingly flat
Star Wars Episode 7 has almost finished filming
Fury, film review: Brad Pitt is intriguing as unsympathetic war hero
Batman v Superman: Side-kick Robin to be 'woman played by Jena Malone'
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
London bus driver 'kicks gay couple off for kissing'
Jose Manuel Barroso warns David Cameron against making 'historic mistake' over immigration reforms
Worst Airports of 2014: Poll names Islamabad airport in Pakistan worst in the world