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By Brenda Lorenz, photos by Jayne Drooger

The crowd began to build early as the anticipation of Beth Hart’s first show in St. Petersburg, Florida had finally arrived. Hers was not the only prominent name on the marque. Tonight we would witness a little bit of musical history in the form of Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, John Oates.

John Oates (of Hall & Oates) and Nashville guitarist, Guthrie Trapp got things off to a smooth start Wednesday evening to an almost packed Mahaffey Theater. John and Guthrie have been touring together for the last several months doing an acoustic blend of eclectic music including songs from Doc Watson, Percy Mayfield, and many others, as well as some they wrote themselves.  There was, of course, a few hits from the 70s, 80s, and 90s made famous by Hall & Oates.

Their set list included:
Stack O Lee (John Hurt)
Deep River Blues (Doc Watson)
Arkansas (John Oates)
Lose It In Louisiana  (John Oates)
Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee  (A song about these two blues artists written
by John Oates and a friend in Colorado)
Send Me Someone To Love (Percy Mayfield)
Had I known You Better (1973 Hall & Oates)
She’s Gone (Hall & Oates)
Out Of Touch (Hall & Oates)
You Make My Dreams (Hall & Oates)

They closed with “What A Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong.  John said as they started this song, “We’ve all been through a lot these past couple of years but we have to just keep looking for a silver lining and more often than not, music can give you that – especially this amazing song by Louis Armstrong”.

Along with being a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (2014), John Oates is also a member of The American Songwriters Hall of Fame and has many awards and Grammy nominations to boot. The crowd clearly recognized this and expressed much appreciation to him for his amazing career and accomplishments. It was an honor to get to see him on stage!  They disappeared behind the curtains to cheers, whistles, and an outpouring of appreciation!

After a short intermission, the lights went down and the roars and cheers went up! It was finally time for BETH HART!  Her band, Jon Nichols (lead guitar), Tom Lilly (bass guitar and upright bass), and Bill Ransom (drums/percussion) took the stage. They began her opening song, “Tell Her You Belong To Me”. Her enchanting voice pierced the room – but where is she? As she has done many times, Beth entered the auditorium from the back of the room. With the spotlight on her as she is singing, touching outstretched hands, and giving out hugs, slowly making her way to the stage through the sea of adoring fans.  Her husband Scott was right behind her, ducking down so not to block anyone’s view of the woman they were all there to see!  Once at the stage, she sat on the edge for a bit, then moved over to her piano, that she also calls her alter, to finish that opening song. Shouts of “WE LOVE YOU BETH”, and “YOU’RE AMAZING” rained down along with exuberant cheers!  Those shouts of affection would be heard frequently throughout this show.

Before she went to the next song, “Rhymes”, she introduced her band to a very enthusiastic crowd, and praised the music of hall of famer, John Oates and Guthrie Trapp. She took a moment to express her gratefulness to be able to get out, perform, and have a live audience because doing what makes you happy is worth celebrating.  Her next song, she said, is about doing what makes you happy; Delicious Surprise. There’s another shout of “WE LOVE YOU!” from the crowd!

In February of this year, Beth released “A Tribute to Led Zeppelin”.  She did two songs from this album, first expressing how “terrified” she was to do this cover album in the beginning because this was such hallowed ground. She explained how producer, Rob Cavallo, guided her through the process and it turned out to be a success! Her voice is definitely badass enough to do these songs and this album justice while sending chills down your spine!  It was right about now that her shoes come off – “ahhh, it’s so much better that way!”  The songs from this album were “When The Levee Breaks”, followed by “No Quarter/Babe I’m Gonna Leave You”.

Beth prefaced this next song, “Bad Woman Blues, by telling us it was basically about being naughty and having a ball doing it – and jokingly adds, “God knows, I go to church, I have a pastor, love her so much – she knows I’m going to hell for sure, she’s just trying to get me into a cooler apartment!” Which, of course, brought laughs from the audience!

Rub Me For Luck” was a song she wrote for all the amazing guitar players she’s loved all her life and the ones she’s been able to work with, including her own great guitar player, Jon Nichols.  She also named Buddy Guy, Jeff Beck, Eric Gales, Joe Bonamassa, and the list goes on.   Let me say, when she hit, “Your guitar, is a bleeding heart…” I swear the roof damn near came off!

Beth’s path has not been an easy one and she does not shy away from talking about it. From abusive boyfriends at a young age, to drugs, and alcohol addiction, and how she would just switch from one bad thing to the next – dropping one bad habit just to pick up another one. This took a major toll on her body physically and mentally.  She would later write this song, “War In My Mind”, about those experiences.  Then she met her husband, Scott that she credits with literally saving her life! She told a beautiful, heart-felt story about how she came to find peace and gratitude through prayer and following God’s direction for her life.  She is now so thankful to announce that she is seven years sober!  We do love you, Beth!

“Sister Heroine” is a beautiful song about her older sister, Sharon, who, unfortunately, did not survive the horrific effects of addiction.  Beth told us what an incredible person she while she was alive.  She finished high school by the age of 15, and was in the Jr Olympics for gymnastics and she was the second best diver in California, where they lived at the time. She dedicated this song to Sharon and to Sharon’s daughter, Jade, and her granddaughter, whom Jade named after her mother, Sharon.

She then looks at her set list, and says, “wow, we’ve got all these song choices..” which elicited shouts from the crowd of more suggestions.  She selects one – another fan favorite. “Take It Easy On Me” with the powerful line that says, “this steel butterfly will learn to fly eventually”, one of several she performed solo, just her piano.

For her next song, she brings Tom Lilly back out to play the upright bass, accompanying her on “Woman Down”. Another powerful yet tragic song about her darker moments.  In this song, she pours out her anger on the piano – the anger she’s referring to in this song – banging out the chords with determined frustration! More shouts of “YOU’RE AMAZING!” still coming from the crowd as she closes this song.

I have to say this about the album, “War In My Mind”.  This album is one of her absolute best because she pulls out all of her pain from her past and somehow turns it into this enchanting masterpiece!  There is light at the end of this dark tunnel.  You just have to stick with her through the bad parts to get to the beautiful parts!  A must-listen; the whole album!  There is also a song on this one that she didn’t do tonight called, “Thankful”, and it brings this seemingly darker album to a much happier time!

Starting with “Sugar Shack” and for the next few songs, everyone moved to the front of the stage.  Bill had a sophisticated set up of about six or seven different bongo-type drums and percussion instruments – all of which he touched at least once during these next few songs – many times with one hand drumming while the other plays a percussion shaker. Tom Lilly had his upright bass, and Jon is on his, oh I lost count, 9th, 10th, guitar! I believe he had a different guitar for almost every song! Beth had her trusty bamboo stick to help keep the cigarette cravings at bay, at least that’s what I’m told.

“Baby Shot Me Down” is a song about first getting shot down, but then turning the tables and being the one that shoots that “$%^&” down! “Lullaby of the Leaves” cover by Ella Fitzgerald – this was not on her original set list.  I know because I got a quick pic of it! This was a mesmerizing song done in such an intimate way as they were still sitting together at the front of the stage.

It was ending. Beth thanked everyone for coming as the crowd cheered, clapped and whistled, watching as she disappeared behind the curtain with the band.  The clapping, whistling, and cheering continued for a couple of minutes and of course, they came back!  There is always an encore! And man! What an encore it was!

The music started on the first of two encore songs, and everyone knew what it was immediately; “I’d Rather Go Blind”! I don’t think anyone has ever absolutely nailed this song by Etta James any better than Beth Hart – other than Etta herself, that is!  If you have not heard her version of this song, you are missing out!  Her voice is so powerful and raw, it blows me away every time! As she went through this song, the crowd was mostly quiet, just transfixed on her. However, when the song was over, yep, “We Love you!”

Her final song was “Walk Around Heaven” by Callie Day. Callie is a gospel singer she said she found online saying she is one of the most beautiful human beings in the world.  She suggested looking her up on YouTube. Beth sat on the stage alone, away from her piano, and she sang this acapella. Talk about powerful!  She called her band back out to take a much deserved bow. What an incredible night!

This was an evening of allure on many levels; the allure of how music makes us feel, the allure of how it can, and does change a life – change an outcome – and open you up to new possibilities. As John Oates eluded to as they began “What A Wonderful World”, music gives us that silver lining Every. Single. Time.

Complete set list for the evening:

Tell Her You Belong To Me (2015 album – Better Than Home)
Rhymes (2014 album– Live In Amsterdam – with Joe Bonamassa )
Delicious Surprise (1999 album – Screamin’ For My Supper)
When The Levee Breaks (2022 album – A Tribute To Led Zeppelin)
No Quarter/Babe I’m Gonna Leave You (2022 album – A Tribute To Led Zeppelin)
Bad Woman Blues  (2019 album – War In My Mind)
Bang Bang Boom Boom (2012 album – Bang Bang Boom Boom)
Rub Me For Luck (2019 album – War In My Mind)
War In My Mind (2019 album – War In My Mind)
Sister Heroine (2010 album – My California)
As Long As I Have A Song (2015 album – Better Than Home)
Take It Easy On Me (2010 album – My California)
Woman Down (2019 album – War In My Mind)
Without Words In The Way (2019 album – War In My Mind)
Sugar Shack (2019 album – War In My Mind)
Fat Man (2017 album – Fire on the Floor)
Baby Shot Me Down (2017 album – Fire on the Floor)
Lullaby of the Leaves (2018 album – Black Coffee – with Joe Bonamassa)
I’d Rather Go Blind (2011 album – Don’t Explain – with Joe Bonamassa)
Walk Around Heaven (Callie Day cover)