For those that know me you will be aware that Brandy Clark is one of my favourite artists and songwriters. Therefore I go to every concert with a slightly biased view! I couldn’t wait to review last nights concert as after speaking to her a couple of weeks back, I knew she was going to be playing new material off her upcoming record. This was also the first time in a long time that Brandy would be playing with a full band as opposed to the last couple of times where she just played with Miles and Vanessa. I was keen to hear these songs we’ve come to know and love with percussion too. With support from Kyle Daniel it was set to be an interesting show.
I didn’t know what to expect from Kyle Daniel but he impressed the rest of the audience and I. His gravelly voice was not too dissimilar from Chris Stapleton but his stage presence was much better. Accompanied by Seth the pairs vocals went well together and they both demonstrated some solid guitar playing. His songs were brilliant, he’d been working with some fantastic, well established country songwriters. My favourite of his was That Somebody Ain’t Me, it had some clever lyrics. That was also probably the first time I’ve seen a support act get a standing ovation and it was well deserved.
Brandy came out with her band to a round of applause and cheers from the crowd and they kicked things off straight away with Girl Next Door. It was feisty and full of energy. Brandy, who wore a beautiful western style, smart, black jacket, was smiling throughout as she looked around the Shepherds Bush Empire taking in the crowd. She encouraged everyone to start clapping along and the audience obliged. She talked to the crowd welcoming people from all over the U.K. and Europe. She knew fans had come from the US to see her too. She progressed with the upbeat songs as she played Big Day in a Small Town followed by another of her popular songs off her last studio album, Love Can Go To Hell - my favourite!
Then she went back to her first record 12 stories and played a fan favourite High. All the while Brandy had a mischievous grin on her face. Through the whole set, that smile never faded. I’ve always thought Brandy was quite a shy person but last night she talked to the audience quite a lot and had them laughing at everything she said, she’s just as comical as some of her songs! She talked about the story behind You’re Drunk and by a show of hands the audience responded with which side of the coin they were on. The band was tight, sounded well rehearsed but I don’t imagine they were from what Brandy had told me in our interview about playing with different players every show. Then it was time to introduce the new material. I should imagine that this was a very daunting point of the set for Brandy, especially having a number of new songs one after the other, playing in a different Country, but if she was nervous it didn’t show. The audience politely nodded and swayed along, some were in time with the music!
The first of the new songs was called Love is a Fire, this seemed the furthest away sonically from the rest of her catalogue but as I settled into the song, it had the same great lyric writing we have come to know and love from Brandy. The next two songs however became instant favourites for me, Long Walk features some brilliant, funny lyrics whilst Pawn Shop is a more emotional song inspired by the experiences of Brandy’s uncle who used to own a Pawn Shop. There was many times that Brandy paused to tell us a funny story behind a song and she told us the story about John Prine at the Americana awards in Nashville where he came on stage to a standing ovation and when everyone had settled down he said, “Hello I’m John Prine but I wish I was who you thought I was!” And Brandy wrote this down in her phone and wrote the song Who You Thought I Was which again will be on her new album which comes out early next year. She concluded this section with Can We Be Strangers, it was a sad song but again there was lots of clever lyrics.
Then it was back to the well known material for one song with Pray to Jesus, the crowd began to sing along again. The band exited the stage so Brandy could play acoustically for us. Bigger Boat was another new tune and Brandy talked about the inspiration being a quote from her favourite movie, Jaws. It was a typical Brandy Clark song, cleverly written, metaphorical lyrics about politics in the US. It was an AABA structured song. Clark then went on to talk about the songs that inspired her to become a songwriter, she said this one never moves out of my top five before playing George Strait’s The Chair. You can hear the influence it has had on Brandy’s songwriting as it’s detailed and tells a story - very well written and beautifully sung by Brandy. I must also add, I always go on about Brandy’s voice and writing abilities but she’s also a very competent guitar player too. She then went on to play Carol King’s Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow. She invited Vanessa and her guitar player back at this point whilst the rest of the band enjoyed a longer break. She said this song inspired her to be a Singer with a capital S as her mum always said you can really sing if you can sing this song and she went on to perform Blue Bayou which she executed superbly.
The band returned to perform fan favourite Daughter, people started to dance in their seats a bit more now and you could hear the crowd singing along loudly. As I said earlier it was the first time in a long time that I’d heard her perform with a full band and it almost took me by surprise when the drums came in halfway through Hold My Hand, such a beautiful song and one of her own favourites which she says she never gets fed up of playing live. The main set concluded with Stripes, the upbeat song which was Brandy’s first single was a fantastic way to conclude the 20 song set but the crowd leapt to their feet in a standing ovation begging for more. Seemingly unplanned and surprised by the reaction, Brandy came back alone to play Three Kids No Husband written with Lori McKenna. She thanked the crowd and left saying “I’m Brandy Clark but I wish I could be Who You Thought I Was!”
Brandy is such a humble lady, I’m not even sure she’s aware of just what a talented musician she is, her vocals are strong and you can hear every word, which is good as the detail in her lyrics and the beautiful stories and characters she creates deserve to be heard by all. Her relaxed, down to earth stage presence allowed her sense of humour which we’ve come to know and love in her lyric writing to shine through in conversation as well. This was one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to and it has got us all excited for the new record which is set to come out in early 2020... a contender for album of the year? Quite possibly, yes!