The Heavenly Sounds concerts have seen a number of incredibly talented artists performing in churches around the country since 2011 – the latest installment saw Beth Orton, the BRIT award winning UK songstress playing shows in Perth, Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney.
The Melbourne show was held at St Michaels Church in Collins Street. Built in the late 1800s, the church provides an incredible backdrop for a live performance, with the huge pipe organ bathed in blue and pink light and candles flickering – it was almost as captivating to look around at the building itself as it was to watch the artists perform!
Alexander Gow opened the night, Strat in hand, and warmed up the crowd, playing both his own songs and also music by his band, ‘Oh Mercy’. Gow commented that he never thought he’d be back in church, and even passed around his hat to take up a collection.
Orton took to the stage after a short interlude, opening with an a capella version of Pieces of Sky. Delivered with a sense of ease, and awkwardness at the same time, the set borrowed much from Orton’s latest release, Sugaring Season.
I first saw Beth Orton perform in early 2003 and, one thing that really stood out was her ability to captivate an audience in between songs. Orton’s banter was in fine form, covering lost guitars, new dresses and the obligatory church jokes and, at times, had the audience in stitches.
Beth sat at the piano for Last Leaves of Autumn and Worms, before closing the set with hits She Cries Your Name and Central Reservation. Orton returned shortly after to rapturous applause to give the audience Stolen Car (as powerful solo as it is with Ben Harper’s scorching slide guitar), Pass in Time and, finally, a cover of the Five Stairsteps song, Ooh Child.
I’d left it ten years after seeing Beth Orton last. After seeing this concert, I have no idea why I waited so long!