Reviewer: Audrey Pointer
Texas-born Beth Nielsen Chapman is a singer-songwriter based in Nashville, where shewon Songwriter of the Year in 1999. Her songs have been covered by such musical notaries as Bette Midler, Elton John, Neil Diamond, Faith Hill and Willie Nelson. She is touring The British Isles in 2014 to promote her new album UnCovered. Harrogate’s Royal Hall is an early date in the schedule; only the second performance of the tour. The Royal Hall, restored between 2006-8, is a magnificent venue with a rich history, including performances from Elgar and The Beatles, among others.
Red Sky July opens for Beth Nielsen Chapman, a trio of musicians with pop pedigree, who have been described as “an alternative country band”. Shelly Poole formerly of 90’s pop duo Alisha’s Attic (and incidentally, daughter of Brian Poole of 1960’s Tremeloes fame) leads the trio. Providing lovely harmonies is a singer from Miami, Charity Hair. Shelly’s husband, Ally McErlaine, guitarist and founder member of the band Texas, ably supports them throughout. Highlights from their set prior to the interval were songs ‘Already Gone’, ‘Morning Song’ and ‘New Morning Light’. The haunting tune ‘Renegade’ featuringHair on the fiddle and love song ‘Made For Each Other’ were well received by the audience.
Beth Nielsen Chapman’s set opened with her on piano singing ‘I Find Your Love’ from Calendar Girls, a fitting choice for a North Yorkshire audience. Various other musicians wandered on thereafter, setting an informal tone which lasted throughout the evening. Ruth Trimble was one of them, a young Northern Irish protégé who sings and plays electric guitar, piano and a lilting penny whistle in one of the numbers. On percussion was Chapman’s nephew Tripp Dudley, while on bass, mandolin and electric guitar was Martin Allcock, whose list of musical achievements is a very long list indeed. Once the band had assembled, they continued the set with the love song ‘All I Have’.
Red Sky July reappears to join the assembled throng, adding harmonies, electric guitar and violin to the mix. In this seven-piece format, the band has a full and assured sound. You would hardly believe they have come together in such a piecemeal way. ‘Here We Are’ is delivered with a punchy arrangement, including a key change that gives an extra burst near the end. ‘Strong Enough To Bend’ follows, a song which uses imagery of trees and wind. It was a number one hit for country legend Tanya Tucker.
Chapmanretuned her guitar several times and used a capo where required to change key, encouraging audience participation in some of the numbers. Having collaborated with many other famous musicians, she ‘name-dropped’ several of them in her breezy introductions to the numbers, including Waylon Jennings, Duane Eddy, Don Williams, Bonnie Raitt, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Willie Nelson. Her song introductions revealed a sense of humour, which is also apparent in two amusing songs for children from her science-themed album ‘The Mighty Sky’ – ‘Test, Re-Test &Verify’ and ‘Rockin’ Little Neutron Star’.
Other highlights included the romantic number ‘This Kiss’ and ‘Sand and Water’, a song about birth and death from an almost existentialist perspective. The final song of the encore was the 1966 classic by The Beach Boys, ‘God Only Knows’ in which more audience participation was called for.
Chapman has a strong voice with a great range and clear diction, as well as the ability to connect on a personal level. Her lyrics are mostly about relationships and feelings, rather than politics or social commentary. Her songs have a familiar feel to them and fans will not be disappointed with this performance, and she is set to win many new fans with her introspective lyrics, tuneful melodies and bright sound.
Reviewed on: 13th February 2014