BETH ORTON, Union Chapel – Evening Standard, 6 Dec 2012

It can be tough for women to readjust to working life after maternity leave, especially when you’ve been off for six years like Beth Orton has.

Now 41, with two children and a husband, Sam Amidon, who was also her duetting partner and support act here, she found she had been missed by a crowd that shouted so many requests that individual titles were inaudible in the clamour.

Though at the start of her career she and her acoustic guitar were lauded by the dance crowd — she collaborated with William Orbit and The Chemical Brothers — these days she’s a full-on folkie, opting to perform a set featuring most of the songs from her comeback album, Sugaring Season, alone. The occasional problem with the sound was lightened by her chirpy between-song persona. “I don’t mean to be a diva,” she joked.

The songs, though, were things of beauty. Poison Tree, a reworking of a William Blake poem that she called “a collaboration between me and the dead”, had a brooding magic with fiddle and harmonies from Amidon. She plucked her guitar hypnotically on State of Grace and approached the folk-soul sound of her late collaborator Terry Callier on Candles.

See Through Blue was odder, a strident waltz with plonking piano from Nico Muhly. Call Me The Breeze was a breath of fresh air, a catchy country shuffle that was a relative picking up of the pace.

She was charming company throughout, not a diva in the slightest. This low-key comeback deserved its upbeat welcome.

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