With Beth Orton gigging at record stores across the UK to promote her long-awaited album Weather Alive, ReSound caught up with her at her Edinburgh show at Assai Records.

This album is long-awaited being Beth’s first since Kidsticks in 2016. Beth played 5 of the album’s eight tracks at this intimate gig on a small, raised stage accompanied by saxophone and flute.

The album is extraordinarily personal with lyrics providing insights into her life and love through the difficult times she has seen with poor health forcing her to leave her home in the US. The songs reflect life in a way that only someone who has experienced the ups and downs of years could share with each track taking you to places you feel you can identify but through a veil, like scenes from a person’s history, recognisable but at arm’s length from your own experience.

The audience of around 40 hardy souls began the evening queueing in the chilly street outside Assai’s Edinburgh store filing in to pack out the compact shop. Quite a change from Beth’s last Scottish gig at the Hydro in Glasgow where she supported Alanis Morrissette. Beth and Pete took to the little stage and we were off.

If anything, the gig was more impactful than the album with Beth’s vocal raw and exposed with no hiding place and the poetic lyrics were so stark and more clearly revealed in this small space.

Her first song was the haunting Fractals showing how bare and stripped back this performance was going to be and setting the vibe for the rest of the set. For Friday Night Pete picks up the flute which floats over Beth’s bare vocal. The song gets a great reception from the small crowd.

The next song opens with a theme that repeats throughout the laid-back Forever Young with the breathy flute adding to the emotional performance. The album’s title track Weather Alive is next, one of the most beautiful tracks with Beth’s whispered vocal and Pete’s flute working together to paint pictures and create another special moment. It almost makes me wanna cry/The weathers so beautiful outside/It almost makes me wanna cry/The weathers so beautiful outside.

Towards the end of her last song Lonely, Beth sings the title repeatedly, her voice cracking. Afterwards, the small audience was silent for a few seconds, still consumed by the heartfelt sharing of this touching song.

After the gig ReSound had a quick chat in the back shop. Beth told us ‘I’ve been bursting to get this record out and to play it live. The album has just had such a beautiful reaction. It’s been so hard won. I wasn’t sure how well received it would be at these small record store gigs. How do you create an atmosphere? But the response has been lovely. I guess it’s a testament to the songs, they’re holding up.

It’s a huge relief, Weather Alive has been like a giant ship turning me back to the music. It’s been hard, but time has been like a collaborator giving me a chance to see the music from different angles. In producing it myself I got the chance to get around the beautiful music from the musicians I worked with, drummer Tom Skinner, multi-instrumentalist Shahzad Ismaily, bassist Tom Herbert, and saxophonist Alabaster deplume, and kind of sculpt the songs.’

Beth is looking forward to her 22 gig UK and US tour which kicks off early in October at the O2 in Birmingham. ‘I will be feeling my way back to the music and with the songs at the heart of it, it will work beautifully, I think! I’m so happy to be doing what I’m doing.’

UK Tour Dates:

  • 7 OCT 2022 / UK / Birmingham / Academy 2
  • 8 OCT 2022 / UK / Brighton / St. Bartholomew’s Church
  • 9 OCT 2022 / UK / London / KOKO
  • 10 OCT 2022 / UK / Norwich / Arts Centre
  • 12 OCT 2022 / UK / Bristol / St. George’s
  • 13 OCT 2022 / UK / Glasgow / Classic Grand
  • 15 OCT 2022 / UK / Manchester / RCMN Concert Hall
  • 16 OCT 2022 / UK / Leeds / Brudenell Social Club

Words and interview: Graeme White