Beth Nielsen Chapman
10 February 2010
Cadogan Hall is known for the high calibre artists that fill its calendar every year and Beth Nielsen Chapman is no exception. Although having toured the UK in recent years, Beth had not played a London stage for some time and she wasted no time in reminding the audience of what they have been missing.
With her first mainstream album in six years being released a matter of weeks before the London show, it was no surprise that she opened the set with two songs taken from ‘Back to Love’. During ‘Hallelujah (a Love Song)’, Beth also demonstrated her talents as a multi-instrumentalist as she swapped her guitar for a bouzouki, and later in the evening also took to the piano.
Although ‘Back to Love’ provided plenty of new material and over the course of the set she performed all the songs on the album, past successes were not forgotten. ‘Sand and Water’ was enhanced by the quartet that joined her for the tour, as were a number of other songs, as the string arrangements by Karl Marsh, highlighted their emotional depth. It is impossible to listen to Nielsen Chapman without noting that she has lived every song, from the pain that led her to pen ‘Happiness’, when seeking comfort during treatment for cancer, to the humour tinged and loving words of ‘I Need You Love’, written for her partner. It is this deep-rooted connection with her songs that makes her such a powerful performer.
The main set was closed with some of her more up-tempo numbers, ‘Shake My Soul’, ‘Free’ and ‘This Kiss’, before returning for an encore. The incredibly moving story told in ‘Emily’, never fails to bring about a lump in my throat, but the stand out performance of the night has to be an impromptu rendition of ‘Angels By My Side’. Requested by an audience member and played by Beth alone at the piano, her clear, powerful vocals filled every space in the room as the song built and the enthusiastic applause it received was certainly appropriate.