It’s extraordinary how unchanged Beth Orton appears, given the skirmishes over her very selfhood she has apparently fought in the six years since her last album. Clad in a mirrored dress and glittery shoes – they purposely echo the vast disco ball that spins above the crowd in this plush north London venue – the Norfolk-born, London-based singer and multi-instrumentalist seems miraculously consistent with longstanding perceptions of her.
She’s the same coltish, mop-haired presence as ever, always a little nervous (“agh, breathe….”), despite a long career spent casting a spell over listeners with her daubed diction and long-fingered guitar work. Behind her stands the stalwart upright bassist Ali Friend from Red Snapper; their association dates back to 1995 . Orton’s hits, such as She Cries Your Name , and other foundational tracks ( Central Reservation ) abide in her set list, albeit as updates rearranged for this particular band, which now includes Peter Wareham of Melt Yourself Down on saxophone and electronic artist and gauzy support act Hinako Omori on synths.
We know Beth Orton, or we think we do: she has a permanent seat in the culture, thanks to the immediate success of her folk-leaning but rave-savvy debut album, 1996’s Trailer Park, and its successor, Central Reservation (1999). These went hand in hand with a clutch of high-profile crossover collaborations ( the Chemical Brothers ). Her more exploratory later albums have always been worth investigating; Comfort of Strangers (2006) and Sugaring Season (2012) are particularly enduring.