Review: Claire Kane
Beth Jeans Houghton is one of those musicians who are happy to avoid the limelight. Listen to her album ‘Yours truly, Cellophane Nose’ and you will hear that she is unique compared to her musical contemporaries; with an air of punk and glam rock added to her gentle folk songs. The anti-folk singer-songwriter came out of nowhere with her début album a shiny well produced collection of songs. So it was an interesting prospect to see how her songs would translate from the relative safety of the studio to the stage.
Houghton walked out on the stage looking incredibly blasé about her return to Dublin. She was a vision to behold; Marilyn Monroe glamour with a hint of careless punk attitude is the only way to describe her style. It would soon become apparent that her image is as vital to her performance as her wound-up folk tunes. Everything is image; the hair, the lipstick, the ominous yet sweet tone of her voice that echoed beautifully throughout Whelan’s. Her voice was most heartwarming during the flawless performance of Sweet Tooth Bird. There was something unavoidably haunting about the way Houghton sorrowfully sang the lyrics; soft as it is on the recording with added creaking emotion in her throat.
Houghton humbly interacted with the crowd between songs coming across as endearingly awkward as she spoke; her demeanour not quite matching the vivacious confidence she exudes while singing, her accent not quite matching the Hollywood glamour she seemed to portray. Another song worthy of mention from this performance is Dodecahedron. Houghton delivered the song calmly and coolly, her breathy and multi-plateaued voice expelling the relaxed and atmospheric song. It suited the general feeling in Whelan’s perfectly; the crowd absorbed the song, a few singing along, many nodding in approval. The audience reaction to Atlas was similar as she performed it with a touch more ferocity than she had induced into any performance throughout the night. One thought sprang to mind as she tapped her foot gingerly along to the song and belted the words wholeheartedly into the mic; she was a classic performer; no gimmicks, no obnoxiousness, just her voice and her band and an air of appreciation for the crowd’s positive reaction.
The highlight of the night was undoubtedly Lilliput. Probably Houghton’s best known song; she delivered it to the expectations of the crowd, many of whom only showed recognition for this song. Houghton’s vocals were incredible throughout the rendition of this track and the audience was visibly taken aback by the performance. The performance was strange and seductive in equal measure; a direct result of the combination of Houghton’s otherworldly presence and the uplifting elements of the song, namely the drum beat and the sudden kick of life into the music. The sheer range of vocals blew the crowd away and when she was finished performing the song the crowd popped, applauding ferociously.
The atmosphere on the night was palpable; not initially, but as the concert ended. Given Houghton’s lesser-known status many revellers were there simply to see what the fuss was about and they no doubt left as fans. Houghton and her band gave it all in Whelans. There was something magical exuding from the young songstress and she certainly cast a spell over the Dublin audience with her sensual and, at times, unbelievable, performance. Her image, her flexible voice and her deceptive coyness all made for a stunning and intimate gig; if it left one impression it was that Beth Jeans Houghton is too talented and unique to be “the next big thing”.