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5th July 2022

Beth Orton Charms at the AO Arena

Owen Scott reviews Beth Orton’s set, as she opened for Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill anniversary tour at the AO Arena.
Beth Orton Charms at the AO Arena
Photo: Beth Orton – Sarah Burns @ Flickr

I’d originally planned to see Beth Orton and Alanis Morrissette on 25th June, but, because Alanis was sick, the show was rescheduled, so to say I was looking forward to the concert on the 30th was an understatement.

Orton’s had a long, successful career. She’s worked with William Orbit, who has worked closely with artists like Madonna, she’s been nominated for three Brit awards and won one, alongside having had her music featured in hit shows, such as Grey’s Anatomy. Here, appearing as the special guest for Alanis Morrisette’s Jagged Little Pill 25 year anniversary tour, she drew from Central Reservation, Superpinkymandy, and several of her other albums, when choosing songs for the set list.

Beth Orton’s music can be described as many things, but the first word that comes to mind is folky. However, her opening song, ‘Stolen Car’, caught both mine and my friend’s attention. It was loud and was something I almost wish we could have been stood for. ‘Galaxy of Emptiness’ took her sound further into a folktronica direction – almost like a haze that was easy to get lost in.

Photo: Beth Orton’s stage set up – Owen Scott @ The Mancunion

As her set went on, her vocals were what stood out to me the most. They were raw, coming across as very authentic; there were no harmonies that were forced, or came across as contrived. Her voice carries on folk traditions that are refreshing to hear in a stadium setting. This came across especially on the third song of her set ‘Thinking About Tomorrow’, with its soaring chorus and her raw vocals sliding over it.

After the folky, electronic nostalgia of ‘She Cries Your Name’ and the gentler ‘Call Me the Breeze’, she performed ‘Stars All Seem to Weep’ which was a highlight of the set. Where the original song takes its time with its nonchalant electronic instrumentation, here the song was transformed into an intense rock version, with guitars backing up the instrumentals and her vocals. The song’s hook reverberated through the arena, creating a powerful sound.

As her set began to draw to a close, she toned down the energy and took the crowd back into a more folky sound with ‘Pass in Time’, once again displaying her raw vocals. ‘Shopping Trolley’, the only song performed from the 2006 album Comfort of Strangers, was light-hearted in its sound, but described Orton’s journey in overcoming heartbreak, as she sang that although she was “Gonna cry”, eventually she would “Laugh about it, all in time.” Orton finished her performance with the title track from her 1999 album Central Reservation, bringing the show to a joyful close as she detailed the return from a one-night stand.

Beth Orton delivered a charming and engaging performance, laughing along with the audience as she promoted her upcoming record Weather Alive. She’s a clear fit with Alanis Morrisette, as both carry a strong 90s aesthetic and sound in both of their discographies. Her folktronica influences and raw vocals made for a show that was emotional in parts and upbeat in others, keeping the crowd entertained for her whole set.

Check out Orton’s website here, to stay updated on her new album Weather Alive and upcoming tour.

Owen Scott

Owen Scott

Head Arts Editor at the Mancunion and culture journalist

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