Concert Images by Mark Horan
The beautiful warm evening in Orlando, Florida was the perfect setting for the coming events at The Plaza Live. The doors were to open at 7:00 PM. A line of approximately 50-60 excited Beth Hart fans had already formed by the time I got there at 6:45. Once inside, a line immediately formed at her merchandise table, as did the two libations/beverage stands. A low murmur of voices filled the atrium. You could feel it in the air – Beth Hart is in the house!
The opening performer, Vella, was probably a new name to most. However, about twenty seconds into Vella’s performance, it was becoming clear why she was opening for Beth Hart. One minute in, and it was solidified and justified. At just 18 years old, it would appear that this Tampa native powerhouse vocalist has an incredible career in front of her. Emitting a slight hippie vibe, with colored “Janis Joplin” style sunglasses, she quickly won the house over with her confidence, style, and powerful stage presence.
After performing her opening original song, “Sky Without Stars”, she introduced herself. “Let me introduce myself real quick. My name is Vella, ‘with a V’ and I’m from Tampa, Florida!” She’s had people call her “Bella” or “Fella” so she clears that up right off – it’s with a “V”. I don’t think anyone will be forgetting that name any time soon. Vella not only has a voice that strikes an element in your soul, and a sass that has a life of its own, but her songwriting ability is just as phenomenal!
She performed some originals as well as some covers with her guitarist Adrian Padilla, starting with an original, “Sky Without Stars”. She also performed the cover by Gnarls Barkley, “Crazy”, and a song she co-wrote and recorded with Macy Gray last year called, “Blue”. Before she started her final song, “Out of Control”, another of her originals, she invited everyone to follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram under her handle, “Vellasings. She also thanked Beth for having her perform tonight.
If you get an opportunity to see Vella live, do it! She is an incredibly talented singer/songwriter/performer!
Vella – Vocals
Adrian Padilla – Guitarist
1.) Sky Without Stars
3.) Pull The Trigger
4.) I See Red
5.) Crazy (cover by Gnarls Barkley)
7.) Out of Control
After a brief intermission, the house lights went down, and different colored lights danced on the stage – the intro music playing on the house speakers seemed strangely appropriate. It was “19 Dolla Lap dance” by hip-hop artists E-40 & Suga Free. I have heard Beth say before that she is a fan of hip-hop music and this definitely fit the mood and helped build the anticipation as her band, Jon, Bill, and Tom, took their places – their silhouettes crossing the still dark stage. The intro music stopped, and her band began the opening music to “Tell Her You Belong To Me”. Then, to some’s surprise, and to others’ expectations, her elegant and powerful voice filled the auditorium as she entered from the back. The spotlight fell on her, revealing her location. Shouts, claps, and cheers welcomed this most beloved blues goddess as she slowly sang her way to the stage through a sea of her adoring fans. Many lined the aisle where she was passing, trying to get close, trying to get a picture, a touch, or an eye-to-eye glance all while showing respect and gratitude towards her. Her husband Scott was right behind her, staying low, as he has always done, to make sure all goes well. Dressed in an ankle length gold, green, and blue fitted dress and no shoes, she continued her opening song on stage. Her excitement came through as she jumped up and down a few times as the song builds to “tell her, tell her you were foolin!” She went over to her piano to finish this extended version (which lasted eight minutes and 22 seconds) to a cheering crowd and shouts of adoration. “God bless you! Thank you so much! Thank you so much!” Beth introduced her band of Jon Nichols on guitar, Tom Lilly on bass guitar and upright bass, and Bill Ransom on the drums.
Once at her piano, she pulled out the bamboo stick that she has been using to stave off cigarette cravings since she stopped smoking over a year ago. She explained what it was and that it has been a great help – “and I have the patch, and I have the gum – so it’s like I’m getting more nicotine now than I did when I was smoking” – drawing laughs from the crowd. In talking about Vella, the 18-year old musical prodigy that opened for her, she said she took a Sharpie and wrote on her arm, “Vella Rules”! Beth praised her for her unbelievable talent and commented that Vella will have a long career in front of her. Beth joked, saying “wish she was my daughter..” again drawing laughs from the crowd.
When Beth performs, “If I Tell You I Love You I’m Lying”, she does it in a sensual and sexy way because, well – why not? It’s that kind of song and no one can do that better than Beth. She sat on a stool at the front of the stage and had the audience spellbound. Another one of her selections was one of several she wrote for her older sister Sharon, whom she loved dearly and had sadly passed away several years back from addiction. I don’t think I had ever seen her do this live in the 8-10 times I’ve seen her. Beth dedicated this song to Sharon’s daughter, her niece, Jade who also has a young daughter whom she named Sharon, to honor her mother. “Skin” is from her 1999 record, Screamin’ For My Supper– a hauntingly beautiful song – just her and her piano.
Going to a Beth Hart show is as good as it gets! She even has a song about it called; you guessed it, “As Good As It Gets”! This is from her 2008 record 37 Days and it’s about just being happy and doing what makes you feel good. After this song, she told us how grateful she is to be touring the US again and that her manager told her about a month ago that they will have four different tours in the US next year! The crowd loved hearing that and we can’t wait! We are praying here in Florida that “the sunshine state” remains on her schedule next year!
One of the many things Beth does at her shows is open up her heart. She tells stories about the horrible times in her life, about the alcohol and drug addiction at a very young age and “thanks be to God that I met Scott when I was 27”. Beth told a great story about some of the good times they spent together and some not so good, and how he stayed with her through the good, the bad and the ugly. “War In My Mind” is about those experiences.
Earlier this year, Beth released a cover album A Tribute to Led Zeppelin that will blow your mind! She admits that this was a little daunting at first being this is such hallowed ground but with the guidance of the producer, Rob Cavallo, she got through it and it’s amazing! She did two songs from that record – “When the Levee Breaks”, and “No Quarter”. Her powerful voice brings out every nuance of these amazing classics.
She dedicated her next song to all the mothers out there. “Mama This One’s For You” is a song that not many can listen to without crying – I know I can’t. The honesty and pure emotion she pours into this acoustic piano song is undeniable. She can express as much emotion through her piano as she can with her voice. Beth and her mom are close and it was easy to see how much she loves her. As she was singing this song and got to the part where she says “you held my hand and watched me grow – you’ll never know how much I love you…” she broke down in tears. The audience cheered her on, offering words of encouragement – many also in tears, including myself. After a couple of seconds, she recomposed herself and picked up right where she left off. This profound and beautiful song is from her 2015 record, Better Than Home.
There is one song (well, many songs, but especially this one) that her fans hope to see her do live. That soul-baring song is “Leave The Light On” from her 2003 record of the same name. It needed no introduction. A couple of notes into it and the audience knew. You could almost hear everyone collectively gasp! She dedicated this song to Vella because earlier in the day, she saw the TikToc video of Vella singing part of this song, which moved Beth to tears.
Before starting the last three songs, Jon, Bill, Beth, and Tom moved to the front of the stage, all seated except for Tom since being seated and playing an upright bass does not go together. Bill had a sophisticated set up of about three different kind of bongo-type drums and four or five different percussion instruments and hand shakers, sometimes drumming with one had while playing a percussion instrument with the other. Those last three songs were “Sugar Shack”, “Fat Man”, and “For My Friends”. “For My Friends” was a song written by Bill Withers and is on two of Beth’s live albums – one of which she did with Joe Bonamassa in 2014, Live in Amsterdam. As they were building up to the start of “For My Friends”, Jon did an unmistakable guitar intro that was part of Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child”. This was the final song of the evening – almost. When it was over, they got up, waved to the crowd, and disappeared behind the curtain as the crowd cheered, clapped and whistled – waiting for the inevitable – the long awaited encore. After two or three minutes, they all reemerged to an enthusiastic crowd and took their respective places. Beth sat on the edge of the stage, “This has been such a great night! This has been like church!” Then it started – the music to the most anticipated song of the evening for some – an Etta James song that no one can do as well as Beth – no one other than Etta James herself, that is! She closed things out with “I’d Rather Go Blind”. The combination of her exquisite voice and the dramatic instrumental genius of her amazing band brought the house down!
She thanked everyone for coming saying, “You guys are wonderful! Thank you so much” as the adoration from the audience kept coming. They took a bow, waved, and another Beth Hart show had ended, leaving everyone on a high! What an amazing night!
Beth Hart – Vocals/Piano
Jon Nichols – Guitar
Tom Lilly – Bass Guitar/Upright Bass
Bill Ransom – Drums/Percussion
1.) Tell Her You Belong to Me
2.) Bad Woman Blues
3.) Rhymes (Al Green cover)
4.) Delicious Surprise
5.) If I Tell You I Love You (Melody Gardot cover)
7.) Good as It Gets
8.) Swing My Thing Back Around
9.) Rub Me for Luck
10.) War in My Mind
11.) When the Levee Breaks (Memphis Minnie & Kansas Joe McCoy cover)
12.) No Quarter (Led Zeppelin cover)
14.) I Need a Hero
15.) Leave the Light On
16.) Without Words in the Way
17.) Sugar Shack
18.) Fat Man
19.) For My Friends
20.) I’d Rather Go Blind (Etta James cover)
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Music and writing are two things that drive me, so the best of both worlds is to write about music; especially local bands and artists! They give me something I can’t live without and supporting their love and drive of bringing that to us gives me something to be excited about and to write about! To bring a concert, an album, or an interview to life for someone else through my written visual is my goal.