Beth Nielsen Chapman Live in Newtownabbey

Beth Nielsen Chapman delivers on night of high emotion and good humour.

Beth Nielsen Chapman Live in Newtownabbey

Theatre At The Mill

There is something special about a live gig. There is a coming together of like minds, a group of comparative strangers assembled in a large space, drawn together by their shared love of an artist and their music. That is what occurred last Sunday in The Theatre at the Mill on the outskirts of Belfast.

 Fans were expecting, no, fans knew they were in for an evening of top-quality songs and music from an artist who has scaled the heights as a writer and a performer. But we left the gig with so much more. This was a night to lift the soul, and raise spirits, powered by the redemptive power of music and the human spirit.

Three songs into the set, Beth told her audience, or those that did not know already that her husband of 12 years, Bob Sherman, had died just 7 weeks ago, after a long battle with Leukaemia.  She told a hushed crowd, that Bob had told her that with his passing, she needed to ‘Do what you do’ and that is to sing and keep moving forward.

Those who know Beth’s background will know that her first husband Ernest Chapman also died from cancer in 1994, and Beth herself battled breast cancer. Having experienced so much loss, it is a thing of beauty, to watch another human give so much back.

When Beth sang ‘Sand and Water’ there was not a sound to be heard. Hugely emotional, impeccably delivered totally unforgettable.

The gig itself, almost in spite of the circumstances, was uplifting in so many other ways, not least the good humour and craic on stage. Ably supported by Ruth Trimble and Mia Morris throughout, the three women’s voices blended delightfully.

Ruth and Mia themselves were the support act, opening up proceedings, each delivering three of their own songs. Mia shows remarkable promise and confidence for an 18-year-old, whilst Ruth is an artist always worth listening to. ‘Before the ‘Rain’ was a lovely reminder of her talent as a singer and writer.

After a short break, Beth took to the stage with Ruth and Mia as backing band and delivered a high-energy opener in ‘All Around the World’ followed by the Keb Mo co- write ‘Put a Woman in Charge’  and was greeted with warm enthusiasm by approximately half the audience. Many of the songs played tonight came from Beth’s latest, and rather fine ‘Crazy Town’ album, which, much like the gig, is a heady mix of upbeat, at times almost rock tunes, and sweeping ballads such as the moving ‘With Time’.

Her attempts at the Northern Ireland accent were not the worse I’ve heard from an American, but as Ruth Trimble suggested ‘Needed a bit of work’! She is quite self-deprecating in her way, and displays an ability to not take her name-dropping (And what names!) too seriously.

Mid-Tempo workouts ‘Dancin’ with the Past’ and ‘Pocket of my Past’ were enjoyable romps declaring her eyes were firmly set on the future. ‘The Universe’ was a word salad delivered at breakneck speed and great fun.  A short solo set at the keyboard, brought another change of pace and more emotional resonance, on the captivating ‘I find Your Love’, and equally alluring ‘Beautiful Heart’.

As if the quality of the talent wasn’t high enough, Beth welcomed Donna Taggart to the stage. Donna, I would suggest possesses one of the most beautiful voices on this island, so it was a magical treat to hear her combine with Beth on ‘Bring your Love’. Such harmonies.   ‘Everywhere We Go’ was played as a ‘fake ending’  before ‘Walk you to Heaven’, which she introduced as – ‘Kind of a happy death song. I guess I’m known for that’.

I took away many little pen pictures of a fabulous night, The quality of the songwriting, Beth’s resounding voice, the humour between the participants on stage, a beautiful cameo from one of our own finest voices in Donna Taggart, but tonight will live in the mind and the heart for Beth’s own sense of grace and resilience in the face of such huge personal loss, and the power of her music to lift and heal.