Beth Orton – The Powerstation: April 20, 2024 (Concert Review)

Beth Orton finally made back to Auckland, 10 years later, and 6 months delayed with her November show at the Powerstation finally happening in April.

Orton last graced New Zealand stages back in 2013, performing at Auckland’s Holy Trinity Cathedral in May of 2013, but long-time fans, like yours truly, will remember her set at The Big Day Out in 2000 at Ericsson Stadium.

This time around Orton turned The Powerstation into a place of worship and the faithful showed up…it was a sell-out.

Beth OrtonEven on this chilly autumn evening Beth kept us waiting. The lights went down at about 9:12pm, but it was a full five minutes later before she and her band took the stage. But it was worth waiting for.

Finally the ethereal sound of a keyboard rang in the introduction to Weather Alive, the title track to Orton’s most recent album.

In the morning, all is dawning. In the stillness of the day, mist is rising, jewels aligning and the shadows fall away.” Beth’s voice is, at first, almost inaudible, but soon is brought to the fore and the soundman finds his groove.

This may not be Holy Trinity Cathedral, but tonight The Powerstation feels like church.

Supporting Orton are three men…drummer Ben Sloan, Australian guitarist James Gilligan and multi-instrumentalist Jesse Chandler, who also plays with Midlake and performs as Pneumatic Tubes. Chandler adorns the opening song with his flute, later he plays sax and synths.

The first 3 or 4 songs wash over the crowd like a warm breeze with Orton introducing her band after Central Reservation during which Beth’s distinctively raspy voice scats as much as sings. Yes, the band does indeed sound more and more like a jazz combo than a rock outfit, particularly Sloan’s nimble drumming.

Beth Orton

After “an oldie but a goldie” (Paris Train), Beth tells us “we’re just playin’ to the room”. And from that moment on, the intimacy and communication between artist and audience increases a hundred-fold.

As the set proceeds, Orton seems to loosen up, telling more stories or just rambling.

“This is off a record…I don’t think I even toured here, did I? Umm…no, what the fuck was that record called? Anyway…that record…this song is called…fuck, I don’t know what this song is called”.

The album was Comfort Of Strangers, the song is Shopping Trolley, and Beth’s rather disjointed intro actually makes us all feel right at home, as if a slightly-stone friend has dropped in and is recounting her day.

Beth Orton“You’re a very nice audience”, she tells us, assuring us that she doesn’t say that to just any audience.

After Arms Around A Memory we are told, ‘One more song and then we’ll bugger off””

“8 more songs!” shouts someone in the crowd.

And with that we are treated to a truly magical version of Unwritten.

Of course there is an encore…three songs not eight, beginning with Lonely, but not before Orton scolds a few enthusiastic fans down front…”You can’t let me come back out and then talk, that’s just rude!” But she adds a disarming, “I’ve got dribble down my shirt”.

Beth Orton, alone on stage then gives us what we want…Lonely, followed by Sweetest Decline followed by Stolen Car…fan favourites from two decades ago.

It was beautiful evening…thanks to the venue, the audience and especially Beth Orton and her band…making this chilly autumn evening so warm and inviting.

Marty Duda

Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Ivan Karczewski:

Beth Orton setlist:

  1. Weather Alive
  2. Friday Night
  3. Fractals
  4. Central Reservation
  5. Paris Train
  6. Haunted Satellite
  7. Forever Young
  8. She Cries Your Name
  9. Pass In Time
  10. Shopping Trolley
  11. Call Me The Breeze
  12. Arms Around A Memory
  13. Unwritten
  14. Lonely
  15. Sweetest Decline
  16. Stolen Car

Beth Orton and her band perform again tonight in Wellington at the St James Theatre. Click here for tickets.