Beth Orton: RCNM, Manchester – A Review


We can all have bad days!  However for Beth on Saturday night playing to an audience at the musically prestigious venue of Royal College of Music in Manchester this was definitely one of those nights.

She is kooky and quirky; does have a genuine musical talent which sadly, did not extend to entertaining and engaging her audience on Saturday night.  Highly disappointing!

I was ready to be entertained by Beth and convinced by her folktronic sound however she seemed a little disoriented walking onto the stage and even announced – ‘whoops, i’ve just kicked my drink over.’  Giving her the benefit of the doubt and putting it down to nerves, it became apparent early on that she was utterly overwhelmed by playing at this small, 200 seated venue stating to the audience that she didn’t know what she was doing here as she didn’t even attend F**kin college. There was a small titter of laughter at this comment however looking around at people on their phones, others getting up to go to the bar and some simply leaving, this really wasn’t a good start. She failed to read the room too as if she had, she would have seen that her audience were not ribald concert goers, in fact professionals who clearly didn’t enjoy her ‘blue’ language. I was struggling to work out why a performer with over thirty years experience would not enunciate clearly or even semi clearly, into the microphone when conversing with the audience or as she did on many occasions, simply turn away from her microphone which meant her audience couldn’t hear her.  She rambled incoherently at some points which at this point, made me question if I was no longer watching a performer who was nervous but rather, possibly drunk.  Either way, this was not the performance I was led to believe to expect from a BRIT Award winner.  

Orton introduced her band who I’m sure are talented musicians in their own right however there was no chemistry between them.  Not one raised a smile during their performance, they just looked like a group of musicians who had reluctantly been commissioned to play together. They performed like they were in a trance; apart from the odd glance at each other, they never communicated in any way.

The highlight of the concert was when Orton actually got her semi hit She Cries Your Name wrong – she stopped playing too early, i’m not sure if she forgot her own lyrics or she was concentrating on other things however, she turned to her double bass player who then shrugged.  Laughing, she asked the audience if they wanted her to play it again with many shouting…No! Embarrassingly awkward.  Ignoring this, with an intro from her double bass player she proceeded to carry on.  Painful!  

Overall, the whole concert was dreary, yet despite this the audience mostly clapped – I think out of politeness, with a few whoops and hollers however it was few and far between.

I was disappointed and in my opinion, this was a substandard concert… I am definitely not a fan now.

Set List: Weather Alive, Friday Night, Fractals, Haunted Satellite, Pass In Time, Sweetest Decline, Arms Around A Memory, Forever Young, She Cries Your Name, Central Reservation, Unwritten.

Encore: Lonely, Blood Red River, Call Me The Breeze.

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