PHOENIX — Just as the heat started to break, Phoenix began its transition from a seemingly-endless scorching summer to the fall and winter temperatures locals seem to live for. A perfect night for Phoenicians to head down to the brand new venue downtown – The Van Buren. Beth Hart, along with Marina V, headed to the Valley of the Sun to serenade and entertain a diverse crowd in this beautiful new downtown space.
Marina V set the stage for a beautiful, emotional evening, slowly warming up a relaxed crowd with her melodic voice and piano-playing skills. She shared many tender, intimate moments with the audience, making it seem as if it was a private show for each and every one of them. Her passion for the art she creates and shares with the world is obvious, and her performance was a mixture of the subtle and the sublime.
Marina V, short for Verenikina, hails from Moscow, Russia, but she has lived in the US for quite some time now. When she first started performing live, one of her first shows was opening for Beth Hart, making this tour very special – she was happy to be sharing the stage yet again with Beth. She also shared that she has performed over 1000 live shows by now, with her husband always by her side. In fact, after a few solo songs on stage and sharing her recent health struggles which she has recently recovered from – singing her song “Bring It On,” the anthem she wrote in some of her darkest moments – she brought out her husband to play guitar. Together, they rocked the stage, slowly ramping up their music and playing more stimulating songs and slowly warming the crowd up.
Eventually, Marina V told the crowd a bit more of her backstory, about growing up in Russia among tense relations with the US, and how she wishes peace, love, and unity for the two countries. To seal this deal, she confessed that she learned about most American music much later in her life, discovering Neil Diamond only recently. She sang “Solitary Man” in Russian, which was quite a pleasant surprise for the audience.
Marina V shared a few songs from her newer albums, and in fact plans to release her second album of the year soon. Her first one of this year, Inner Superhero, was released in January, and her latest album, Born to the Stars, comes out later this month. Fortunately for attendees, she was selling the newest album at her merch booth, giving fans a bit of a head start.
At the end of Marina V’s set, she offered for everyone to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org for 4 free songs, and a promise that she would read each and every message personally. She also invited everyone to visit her in the merch area, where she offered to sign every piece of merch sold, and to hug anyone who came to see her. As a bonus, she made sure to write fans’ names in both English and Russian on any merchandise sold.
During a short break, people were able to explore The Van Buren a bit more, enjoying its spacious lobby, beautiful outdoor patio area, a drink or three from one of its bars, and maybe even a snack. As people were returning to their seats, Beth Hart took the stage by storm, starting the show with a “bang bang” and a “boom boom.” She rocked out hardcore, along with her band, moving all around the stage and singing her heart and soul out. It was crystal clear that she was enjoying her performance just as much as the audience, if not more so.
Beth Hart recently released a new album, Fire on the Floor, in the US this February, and what better way to celebrate than with a worldwide tour? On top of playing some of her newer songs, Beth Hart played some of her greatest hits since the early 90s. She also made sure to play one of her own mother’s favorite songs – something she thinks is a pretty sexy song: “Close to My Fire.” What she didn’t reveal just yet was that her mother was actually in the crowd at that very moment.
Beth Hart went through a great sampling of her best songs from over the years, transitioning from high energy to intimate, sobering, somber moments, and just about every other feeling in between. Her music is a mix of blues, rock and roll, jazz, and soul, and it is no wonder that The Blues Magazine called her “the ultimate female rock star.” Her voice has such a unique, enchanting sound, and her commanding stage presence only helps to amplify this.
The crowd was also treated to Beth playing acoustic guitar on stage for a few songs, and of course she pulled out a few of her singer-songwriter-esque piano songs. Eventually, she had a heart-to-heart with the crowd, revealing her struggles with bipolar disorder and how it took her a very long time to “figure it out.” She also shared what was probably one of her proudest moments – reconnecting with her mom and showing her that she can do this thing called life. It was in that moment that she shared the fact that her mom was in the audience, somewhere towards the front, stage left. The lights went out, and they put the spotlight on Mama Hart, right as Beth prepared to play a song she had written just for her: “Mama This One’s For You.”
After this heartwarming moment, Beth wanted to get back to the business at hand – rocking the house, and she sure rocked it good. She shared how she hasn’t been to Phoenix in a very long time, and that she “really f*cked things up bad” last time she was here. She expressed how ridiculously happy she was to be back, how she has overcome many of her past struggles, and that she is in a truly good place in life now. All of this, combined with her supreme performance and masterful presence on stage, made the concert feel like a treat for all in the audience.
In addition to some of those more tender moments, she also shared how, as a young girl, she would go to the beach, see all the beautiful men, and imagine that they all looked delicious. Her line of choice? “I bet they taste like Coca-Cola.” This, as she informed the crowd, is what inspired her song “Coca Cola.” She also shared how her brother’s ex-girlfriend, who was “crazier” than Beth herself, inspired another one of her songs: “Get Your Sh*t Together.” In fact, she loved her brother’s ex, but she felt the need to write that song for both her and herself.
Later on, she shared how she always wanted to get the hell out of LA, as many people apparently do, leading into “LA Song (Out of this Town);” she expressed how she loves to tour but always seems to long for home when on the road. This lead to her final song, “No Place Like Home,” which was a raw, sincere moment where she shared how she wanted nothing more than to be at home with her husband, who does everything for her. She also changed some of the lyrics for a more contemporary look at her life, such as switching “have someone curl up at my feet” to “have Stella curl up at my feet” and interjecting with “Stella’s my dog” between lines.
As all good things tend to do, the show came to an end after her solo performance of “No Place Like Home,” to which Beth said her farewells to the crowd and ended with some wise parting words: “Now go home and take care of each other!” A bittersweet moment of the band coming back out on stage and motioning their own farewells to emphatic applause and cheering ensued before the stage lights went off, the venue lights came back on, and people were left to find their way home.
All in all, The Van Buren was a perfect place to hold such an intimate, surreal show filled with all the emotions under the sky – and then some. The sound was near-perfect, despite Beth’s requests for the sound engineer to tweak what she was hearing. The light show was on point, illuminating the band, highlighting Beth, and casting some interesting shadows with the TOS-era Star Trek-esque alien planet-looking props in the background. The crowd was full of true Beth Hart fans, calmly swaying to her more soothing tunes and rocking out to her more upbeat songs. All in all, this was a fantastic insight into the downtown Phoenix music scene, and Beth Hart herself certainly seemed to love every moment of her visit.
by Trystan Trenberth
Marina V & Beth Hart – The Van Buren 9-12-17
Photography © Trystan Trenberth
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