Beth Hart is crazy good.
The extraordinarily talented singer and multi-instrumentalist and her exceptional band captivated and thrilled a sold-out MontBleu Theatre on Saturday on the south shore of Lake Tahoe.
As her trio opened the show onstage, Hart surprised the audience by entering from behind, singing with a wireless microphone and shaking people’s hands while walking down the stairs. She has a unique approach.
Hart’s career has exploded in the past decade. She’s toured with Jeff Beck and recorded three records with Joe Bonamassa, who has busted the blues barrier to become popular with rock and most every kind of music fan. Hart, too, is mostly considered blues. She’s nominated for three 2018 Blues Music Awards, and if blues is all about emotion, she’s all that. Her eighth album is called “Fire on the Floor,” and she has an intense burning delivery and presence. She’s jazz, rock, blues wrapped in a singular edgy and passionate style. Call her a modern day torch artist.
Hart has refined the art of slowing and building songs, understandable for someone who battles manic depression. Hart discussed that, along with addiction, and relationships. Her life once was so tumultuous that her weight dropped to 92 pounds and when she met her future husband – tour manager Scott Guetzkow – even her friends wondered aloud, “What’s he doing with you?” Hart joked. That’s when you know it’s bad. That story, of course, had a happy ending.
The most tragic tale on the night was the one about a Big Joe Turner tape. Someone had tossed it out of a car window, just to make a point. Her friend turned on a recording by Etta James, who became an instant influence for Hart. Beth Hart is like Etta James in that she’s mostly considered blues but in fact has a style all her own.
The band played flawlessly and never upstaged Hart, if that is even possible. Nashville’s Bob Marinelli on bass kept the pocket in a solid space. Versatile drummer Bill Ransom also plays with jazz artists Diane Reeves, Najee, R&B’s Gerald LeVert, and is a professor of percussion at Cleveland State University. Guitarist Jon Nichols played a Vintage V6 distressed laguna blue guitar, his long arms held straight with rubbery wrists maneuvering a pick.
After one of her turns at the piano, Hart burst into tears. Her husband came across the stage and hugged her from behind. She said goodbye and for a moment it appeared the show was over. But, of course, the band returned for a nearly half-hour rocking encore.
No one in the audience will ever forget the show.
Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.