Beth Nielsen Chapman
at Manchester Academy 2,
Manchester, England
(16 June 2004)

Beth Nielsen Chapman entertained a packed audience in the well-known University of Manchester venue on this sweltering summer's evening. It was so hot in the hall that Chapman asked if England had heard of air conditioning! Despite the heat, she was in good form accompanied by virtuoso musician John Regusa on a range of instruments, including flutes. An accomplished support set had already been provided by singer-songwriter Darden Smith.

Chapman demonstrated a fine vocal range throughout the gig, starting with the appealing opener "Trying to Love You" from her latest album Look. Her songwriting ability was particularly apparent in upbeat songs like "Free" (also from Look), which were complemented by Regusa's fine flute playing. What was disappointing here was that Chapman was appearing without a full band, and a fine song like this lost some of the impact of the album version as a result. Without a rhythm section, it was unsurprising that some of her liveliest numbers (like "Shake My Soul") were missing from the set list.

Despite this, Chapman's strong vocals were a highlight of the gig -- as was her accomplished keyboard playing, which added something memorable to her music each time it was utilized. Her guitar playing was exciting as well, especially in "Away Beyond the Blues" in which Regusa's wooden flute was impressive, too. Regusa also played trumpet in songs like "Look" (the album's title song).

The gig gained something extra when the duo was joined by English folk guitarist Maartin Allcock towards the end of the gig. It was a shame that he was not present throughout, as he provided an added dimension that allowed Chapman more freedom to make the most of her vocals in numbers like "Every December Sky."

This gig left the impression that Chapman's voice is even more impressive and adventurous live than on her albums, where sometimes it can sound a little restrained in comparison. I look forward to hearing her live with a full band one day.

- Rambles
written by Andy Jurgis
published 4 September 2004

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