Last night in Gateshead was something special Brandy Clark supported by Jim Lauderdale at one of my favourite venues in the Country, The Sage 2. I arrived to interview Jim before the show who spoke so profoundly, this is a guy who’s been in the industry for years who has seen the good and the bad side but still loves his craft and writes every single day of his life. It was one of my favourite interviews I’ve done, of course i’m not sure anything will top the interviews I’ve done with Brandy! Jim opened the show and played a mixture of songs from his recent album London Southern and songs that have been recorded by other artists. He played King of Broken Hearts which he released in 1991 and was then recorded by George Strait in 1992. This is one of my favourites of his. He also played a song which he spoke of in the interview called Hummingbirds and off his latest record I Love You More which was just beautiful live. He spoke in between each song telling us the story behind each song and he spoke of his record that was for sale outside and he added some humour to his set. But he was just a man and his guitar, with a strong focus on the craft of songwriting, I couldn’t think of a better way to start the night.
Brandy opened the show on her own with the beautiful track off her first record Hold My Hand. You could have heard a pin drop in the audience it was a lovely, but unusual way to start the show. Then Miles Aubrey and Vanessa McGowan took to the stage either side of Brandy, Miles on guitar and Vanessa on the double bass. The addition of the double bass from previous tours added to the arrangement greatly, the songs sounded fuller than the acoustic versions but quite a bit different from what we hear on the recording. Love Can Go To Hell followed, one of my favourite tracks off the latest album, and then a new track Favourite Lie which I really enjoyed. Maybe because it is new but it sounded a little different from her previous material but lyrically and thematically you could tell it was a Brandy song!
Brandy took a break to chat to the audience every now and again and she spoke of how the long tour had made them all tired and made them a little crazy! As I made my way back downstairs to my seat from doing the photography I could hear the audience laughing. She went back to twelve stories for the next song, The Day She Got Divorced. This is a classic storytelling song, you can almost see the characters as Brandy plays the story. This was followed by the lead single off her second album Girl Next Door. The crowd got a little more lively in this song, it’s always hard to judge how the crowd is feeling at a seated gig but people began to sing a little more loudly and clap and sway along. Brandy told the story of the next song Get High and how she wrote it about a girl who went to high school with her, and how it appears she went to high school with a lot more people than she thought because everyone comes up to her at shows saying yeah that’s my sister or that’s me.
Brandy said this was the point in the set where every song is about substance abuse and she made a joke about how Country music talks about that a lot and how she likes to sing about all of those things a lot more than she likes doing them herself! So Drinkin, Smokin, Cheatin, off the latest record followed. Brandy made a joke about us singing along because not everybody who has record deals can actually sing! But Brandy is not one of those, she is one of the few people who when you see her live, vocally she’s as good as the record, flawless in fact. She stuck with the drinking theme as she played When I Get To Drinkin which is on her Live from Los Angeles record and is fast becoming one of my favourites. Another new one followed, You’re Drunk, I love the melodies in this song and Miles and Vanessa on backing vocals really added to the song.
The set list was well thought out as Brandy seamlessly moved into each song with a short sentence of how one thing leads to another as she played Hungover. Again this is another song which really shifts into an uplifting chorus with a great melody. But Brandy is known for her clever lyrics and storytelling and this next song is a prime example of why Brandy is held in such high esteem as a songwriter the World over: Three Kids No Husband which Brandy co-wrote with Lori McKenna came next followed by the title track off her last album Big Day In A Small Town. The crowd really got into this again whooping when Brandy sang “the crowd goes wild.” Brandy said her favourite type of song was the revenge song and that this next song was a different kind of revenge, she proceeded to play Daughter. She then closed the set with Stripes, again the audience got involved clapping and singing slightly louder!
Of course it wasn’t the end, Brandy returned and talked about how every night she started singing a song that inspired her to write songs and this next song influenced Hold My Hand. She went on to play a beautiful rendition of Kris Kristofferson’s Help Me Make It Through The Night. Then Miles and Vanessa returned as Brandy played a new song, and I’ve heard this before on this tour and on a video online of her performing this live and it really is becoming one of my favourites, I definitely think this is different to previous material though and hope it makes it onto the next album (although it’s not a drinking song and Brandy does keep promising a drinking song record which I would love to hear!) She concluded with Pray to Jesus off her first record before she thanked the crowd on either side of the stage. It was a fantastic night of real Country music with one of the greatest songwriters and storytellers in the World. You feel every word and can picture every character so clearly because of the detail Brandy gives, and they come to life even more when she’s live in such an intimate setting with such a stripped back arrangement.