WORDS AND IMAGES BY BILLY SEAGRAVE
‘Anyone Who Has Had The Fortune Of Attending One Of Orton’s Concerts Know That It’s A Musical Journey’
Beth Orton is an English musician, known for her “folktronica” sound, which mixes elements of folk and electronica. She was initially recognised for her collaborations with William Orbit, Andrew Weatherall, Red Snapper and the Chemical Brothers in the mid-1990s. Her UK/US first solo album, ‘Trailer Park’, received much critical acclaim in 1996. Orton developed a devoted audience with the release of the BRIT Award-winning album ‘Central Reservation’ (1999) and the 2002 UK top 10 album, ‘Daybreaker’. Her 2006 album, ‘Comfort of Strangers’, was followed by a break during which Orton gave birth to her daughter and collaborated with the British guitarist Bert Jansch. Orton returned with ‘Sugaring Season’ in 2012, which moved towards a purer acoustic sound, followed by a return to electronic music with ‘Kidsticks’, released in 2016.
Coming onto stage in the rather fabulous Royal Northern College Of Music (RNCM), Beth Orton is accompanied by band, Ben Sloan on drums, Hinako Omori Synths, Ali Friend Double bass and Bass guitar, Stephen Patota guitar, and Pete Wareham saxophone and flute. The RNCM is a prestigious venue, a venue sometime’s overlooked amongst some of Manchester’s other venues. As for tonights performance it comes into its own, a real homely feel, all round great views and acoustically perfect as you would expect.
As Orton settles down at her Keyboards, adorned with festive lights, the crowd politely applaud the band on stage. Orton has been off radar for the last few years, only to resurface a short while ago, and the release of her latest first self-produced album, “Weather Alive”, throughout tonight’s offering the album will be played in full, with a few older hits added to the mix. Opening with the title track, “Weather Alive”, along with the next three from the album. “Friday night”, “Fractals”, and “Haunted Satellite”, some may say a brave decision, as many of the audience are probably still cutting their teeth on the new album. The mood is maybe sombre, reflective, appreciative, its strange, there’s not much interaction with the crowd, and in return, it is refreshing to not see many if any mobile phones held aloft, it seems that most have just come to observe and indulge in an evening’s proceedings.
Anyone who has had the fortune of attending one of Orton’s concerts know that it’s a musical journey, neatly and seamlessly layered riffs, calming flute or though provoking synthesiser layers all threaded behind the masterful vocal productivity of Orton. The lyrics cut hard and deep, from loss and pain, yet offering through the melodies a healing process that has you drawn and somewhat spell bound. No more so than the beautiful “Arms around a Memory”, once again from her latest album.
“She cries your name”, sees Orton behind the guitar with bowed bass, slide guitar, smooth sax, synth overlay, all beautifully crafted to accompany Orton and her wonderful voice.
“Central reservation”, and “Unwritten”, close out the set perfectly, as the crowd take to their feet in appreciation. We are treated to a three-song encore “Lonely”, the last offering from her latest album, is a grower for sure, then its back to 1999 album “Central Reservation” for the haunting “Blood red river”, before finally once again winding the clock back, “Call me the breeze”, from the 2012 album “Sugaring Season”.
Tonight’s performance has been indulgent, its been a pleasure, to sit and absorb a performance, take in its every strand, perfectly performed by an artist that has proved over the years that the quality of work is what stands out, the gamble of a new album being only a few weeks into its release has paid off for me.
1/ Weather Alive
2/ Friday Night
4/ Haunted Satellite
5/ Pass in Time
6/ Sweetest Decline
7/ Forever Young
8/ Arms Around a Memory
9/ She Cries Your Name
10/ Central Reservation
13/ Blood Red River
14/ Call Me the Breeze
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