Oxford Brookes University

Maybe [a]Godspeed You Black Emperor[/a] need a voice for hire....

Well this is nice.[a]Beth Orton[/a], current siren of choice for the dinner party set and recent Brit Award winner, is playing her only headline gig of the year. And tonight, the Crossover Queen () every Sunday supplement ever) is sitting firmly on the folk side of the fence.

That’s no surprise, but it means her songs, fragile enough on album, have to stick up for themselves. There’s no electronic flourishes on hand as back-up. That Beth has charisma helps the cause. She’s human enough to cock up songs and laugh about it, but she never lapses into over-familiarity, she has a pop star’s aura. She also has a voice, limpid but lived in, that could melt the hardest heart.

But when it comes to the songs, it’s all a little too safe. Set opener ‘Stolen Car’ promises a rocky road, but too quickly melts into coffee-table anonymity. Much of the set sounds like Sinead O’Connor if she had all her marbles intact. Indeed, tonight’s highlight, ‘She Cries Your Name’, even shares a similar ghost-town emptiness to Sinead‘s own ‘Jackie’.

Beth‘s melancholy is never so maudlin that it’d spoil someone’s entrie, and a billion unit-shifting future seems assured, but you end up wishing that she’d just do something to fuck it all up big time. Maybe Godspeed You Black Emperor! need a voice for hire.