BETH ORTON with SAM AMIDON at The Mod Club, Sunday, September 30. Rating: NNNN
Sunday night felt like a reunion for British songwriter Beth Orton and her Toronto fans, many of whom had LPs and CDs for her to sign after the show.
Starting with Magpie, the opening track off of her long-in-coming new record, Sugaring Season (officially in stores tomorrow), Orton, alone on stage, initially seemed to be in raw form, as she sang her renewed intent to be heard.
Turned out it was a cold she was fighting that was affecting her vocals and making her foggy-headed. Despite this, she put on an endearingly intimate and strong show, with intermittent backup from her husband, Vermont-born folk singer Sam Amidon.
Orton has become a better guitar player in recent years, which was evident on the new songs she played alone. But when Amidon sang backup vocals, the music went into technicolour, making Dawn Chorus, Poison Tree, and even Call Me The Breeze (which got off to a rough start) highlights.
Pleased with the warm reception, Orton offered up a generous handful of older material and audience requests, including Concrete Sky, Stolen Car, Someone's Daughter and Pass In Time, and talked of returning soon with a band.
Though Orton admonished the audience for talking through Amidon's opening set, this was only partly true. He's a youthful-looking, rare kind of folk singer with the voice of an angel, who can hold a crowd's attention by switching things up (segueing with stories and jokes, and moving from guitar to violin) and simply by being very good. He played an interestingly odd murder ballad with vocal sound effects and channeled John Martyn on Spencer The Rover.