Beth Ditto


The final night of any artist’s tour is bound to be an emotional one, so heading along to see the tiny songstress Beth Ditto at the stunning Albert Hall on Tuesday I knew I would be in for a treat – she’s wrapping up over a dozen nights across Europe in Manchester.

Known for courting controversy during Gossip’s days, the front woman has often made headlines for everything but her vocal skill. This is a true travesty when you hear her stunning sound so I’m anticipating a truly pro show.

Opening up, Annabel Allum treats us to an eccentric and tense set. I’ve got to admit, it’s rare that I don’t feel an artist’s vibe but it takes me a while to connect with Annabel’s songs. Once I do, however, her screaming electric guitar and soft vocal melodies give me goosebumps. She’s full of talk of the tour experience she’s just shared with Beth and her team and we’re left anticipating her arrival when Annabel leaves the stage.

Soon enough, the band are on and the former Gossip singer Beth Ditto joins them in the same way much of the show will continue – with humility, joy and a relaxed feeling that edges out into the crowd from the first song.

Beth’s been on tour with her band since the beginning of September introducing Europe to new album Fake Sugar. It was released in April.

She opens with ‘Oh My God’ and the crowd is bouncing along right away while Beth skips about the stage. Moving through ‘In and Out’, her confidence and comfortableness on stage are palpable – she’s born to do this and she revels in every minute.

‘I Wrote the Book’ and the album’s title track ‘Fake Sugar’ pick up the pace and give us a glimpse into Beth’s southern roots – hailing from Arkansas, she rocks the southern lilt and “y’alls” that remind us Brits of honky tonk films.

The evening continues through the album, with the poppy sound of ‘Open Heart Surgery’ and the staccato of ‘Oo La La’ complemented by Beth’s recognisable and truly stunning voice – it’s right that she’s been compared to the likes of Etta James, she’s truly captivating.

The simple staging peaks with the lights being brought up during latest single ‘We Could Run’ so that the hardcore fans can be seen clearly – they’re shouting out, dancing like their lives depend on it and singing along at the top of their lungs. They carry on through a fun rendition of ‘A Little Respect’ (yes, the Erasure song), and the most popular song so far – ‘Heavy Cross’, a Gossip original. She storms through it, proving that even though Gossip disbanded last year, she’s still got it.

And that’s when it happens. I’ve seen some huge events. I’ve had my eardrums shake from a baying crowd that want more. But I’ve never in my life heard a crowd at the Albert Hall like I do when they’re getting Beth Ditto back on for her encore.

The volume actually causes me physical pain with the vibrations lasting longer than the sound. It’s phenomenal and the road crew that join us for the end of the set obviously think so too as they look around open mouthed.

Beth comes back on, seemingly taking her time in all things, drinking it in. There’s no rush as she holds an emotional rendition of ‘Clouds (Song for John)’, bounces through the classic ‘Standing in the Way of Control’ (the one we’ve all been waiting for, I’ll admit!), swings through the drawl of ‘Coal to Diamonds’ and the gospel quality of ‘Fire’.

All in all, it was a honour to watch a special last night of the tour for Beth and her crew – you can tell they’re a tight group who enjoy making music together.

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