Beth Rowley - Halifax Victoria Theatre

Talk about making an entrance. In town as support to David Gray, Beth Rowley captivates with a mere half dozen songs and steps into the spotlight voice first, taking the first few bars of opener ‘Nobody’s Fault But Mine’ acapella. Ye olde Victoria Theatre, a quaint and charming old hall (my guest list place has been cocked up but the lovely ticket lady lets me in anyway, bless), takes note; this big, warm husk of a voice floods the whole damn room. People sit up. The band – young, with a Thrills-y boho groove - slide in. This is a marvellous sound. A brilliant arrangement of the old standard, it’s a darkly compelling way to kick off. Big fat applause follows and Rowley steps out of her reverie and beams. Clearly, come the end of the year, Beth Rowley will be a star, no doubt.

People recognise the horn-y strut of current single ‘Oh My Life’. I recognise a compelling performer when I see one. It’s not just about the voice. Sure, the voice is a sensation, deep and resonant, with heft as well as grain. But crucially it’s deployed with beyond-her-years aplomb. On ‘The Sweet Hours’, she’s lost in music. I like that a lot; her songs seem to envelop her. Things may change when she’s in front of a couple of thousand of her own punters, but, still, I can’t ever imagine Beth Rowley bounding to the front of the stage to lead a mass clap--along. She could, of course, just be nervous as hell and locked into deep focus. But if I looked and sounded like she does, I don’t think Halifax on a cold, rainy night would even raise a goose bump.

In 2008, when finally it seems that the suits are letting the little ladies have a go, we’re queuing up for the likes of Duffy, Adele, Amy MacDonald. Worthy types who, we’re told, ‘mean it’. Like that excites. On the evidence of just two singles, I’m putting my money on the outsider coming from off the pace. Laugh me out of court when it turns out my hunch was wrong, that she’s just another Joss Stone. But I think I’m safe on this one. Nowhere near as calculated as the ‘competition’, Beth Rowley’s steely soul smoulders.

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