As the saying goes, you only live once so a chance to see my favourite artist play her first ever show in Copenhagen during a brief run of European dates couldn’t be passed up, plus it was ironically cheaper to fly to Denmark from London than to get a train to catch her in Newcastle later in the week (ok that opens up a whole can of worms I know…!!). Meeting up with Danish friends I’d made at an Ashley McBryde gig in Hamburg last year and another country music fan from Holland who I bump into on a regular basis on the gig circuit made for a fun and truly international gathering even without the incredible show we all got to witness, country music definitely unites!
And what a fantastic reception awaited Brandy and her band at the sold out 250 capacity venue, the audience were fully attentive when needed (during ballads such as “Hold My Hand” “Three Kids, No Husband” and “What Will Keep Me Out of Heaven”, plus during her new, not so familiar songs) but also ready to have a good time during the fun, fan favourite uptempo numbers (such as “Stripes” “Daughter” and “Pray To Jesus”). Brandy lapped up the warm (in more than one way!) atmosphere and was relaxed from the start, obviously enjoying herself throughout the extended set and was vocally as impressive as always despite claiming to still be a bit jet lagged… her songwriting gets a lot of attention but I have mentioned before and will reiterate that I feel she is somewhat underrated as a singer.
And as usual we got some great stories and impromptu asides from Brandy along the way, one of which was after a latecomer, delayed as her young baby wouldn’t go to sleep for the sitter, got a particularly animated welcome from her friends right in front of the stage during one song. “I wish people got that excited when I walked in a room” Brandy said to the young lady involved, who’s apology for distracting the musicians was dismissed as totally unnecessary.
Talking of the musicians, it was amazing to find out that Brandy had met the band’s upright bass player (Ashleigh Caudill) and lead guitarist (UK’s Billy Adamson who usually plays alongside Ward Thomas) only two days beforehand in Oslo, where they had just played together for the first time. “My band is in a bit of hiatus right now” she told us, with some of her regular players being otherwise engaged, but alongside her regular drummer Danny Young and newest (hopefully regular!) addition cellist Kaitlyn Raitz they were fabulous and seemed to have gelled immediately as well as having risen to the challenge of learning a whole bunch of songs from Brandy’s repertoire.
The arrangements were pretty fluid, there were some full band numbers, a few performed as a trio with Brandy on acoustic guitar (as she was throughout) alongside bass and lead guitar, and a few songs with Brandy playing solo, all of which added extra variety to the set.
As touched on earlier, we got to hear several new songs, including the stories behind a few of them, from Brandy’s highly anticipated upcoming album “Your Life Is A Record” due out on 6th March (pre order here https://brandyclark.lnk.to/YourLifeIsARecord ) including of course her new single “Who You Thought I Was”, the video for which features (stars, even!) Brandy’s six month old puppy Ava Gardner who we were told at the gig was a natural, unlike Brandy’s slightly older dog Bette Davis who was given her chance to shine but growled when asked to step up to the mark and was obviously “not ready for her close up”!
Also from the new album, we heard the bluesy “Love Is A Fire”, “Pawn Shop” which is a song I’ve always loved and which was previously cut by Shelley Skidmore, Brandy introducing it by saying she’s always been fascinated about how items in such establishments mark the end for one person, but new beginnings for their purchaser, “Bigger Boat”, inspired by a line from her favourite movie “Jaws” , which she co-wrote with Adam Wright (his 5 year old son is apparently obsessed with the movie too so she knew he’d totally get where she was coming from… it’s an interesting song as it is the first I’m aware of in which Brandy reflects on the state of the world and touches on political matters, albeit in her amusing way, very thought provoking!) and “Long Walk” ,a much more light hearted number which she described as the album’s “kiss off” song. But probably my favourite of her new writes which we we privy to is “Can We Be Strangers Again?” ….a real heartbreaker of a breakup song, just wait til you hear the middle eight and you’ll probably be a blubbering mess like me!
Classic country covers were slotted in between originals, songs that have influenced and inspired Brandy over the years including her mother’s favourite “Blue Bayou” (if you can sing this one you’re a singer with a capital S, she told Brandy… who in turn told us that as a singer/songwriter she “falls somewhere in between lower and upper case” before performing the song immaculately of course, including the challenging final note!), “Good Hearted Woman” and “Together Again”. And I guess you’d call the evening’s closing number “Mama’s Broken Heart” a cover too as it was of course recorded by Miranda Lambert but co-written by Brandy. It was seemingly a genuinely impromptu addition to the set, one of the songs with just Brandy on stage who seemed to want the evening to carry on just a bit longer and of course none of the audience objected, clapping and joining in to end things on an incredible high.
Not surprisingly it was a pretty emotional Brandy who addressed the audience before leaving the stage, thanking us for helping her dreams come true by supporting her, adding that there were only a handful of places where it felt like she was performing a home town show, London being one but that Copenhagen was definitely added to the list and she looked forwards to returning. I’m not sure about needing a Bigger Boat but I’m sure you’ll need a bigger venue next time, Brandy!
Review written by Lesley Hastings (twitter.com/lesleyhastings)