REVIEW: Brandy Clark – Live At The Glee Club, Birmingham

file_000-5I’ve made no secret of my admiration for Brandy Clark recently. ‘Big Day In A Small Town’ is the best album of the year in my opinion and it’ll take something very special to beat it. The quality of Brandy’s song writing cannot be matched, and her live performances certainly do her immense material justice. Having seen her with a full band last month in Charlotte, North Carolina, I was very much looking forward to seeing her in a stripped-back setting on her UK acoustic tour. I was pleasantly surprised by the sold-out crowd that turned out to watch Brandy at the Glee Club…it’s amazing what a C2C slot and a few spins on the Bob Harris show can do isn’t it?

Irish singer-songwriter Ben Glover made the trip over from Nashville with Brandy to open the shows. I wasn’t familiar with Ben beforehand, but I thoroughly enjoyed his set, as did most of the audience who gave him a very warm reception. Ben isn’t an amateur by any means; this is a guy who has taken the gamble of moving to Nashville and has written with some very established songwriters. A particular highlight of his show was his rendition of ‘Blackbirds’, the title track of Gretchen Peters’ latest album which he co-wrote with Gretchen herself. His material certainly isn’t recommended if you want to cheer yourself up, but the depth and sophistication of his song writing was very impressive. Great voice too. His new album ‘The Emigrant’ comes out 30th September – be sure to check it out.

Brandy was joined on stage by guitar player Miles Aubrey, and his talent absolutely blew me away. With acoustic shows, there’s always the concern that it won’t sound like the record, but Miles’ little contributions in every performance were so clever. Every track was instantly identifiable, like ‘Love Can Go To Hell’ where the signature banjo riff at the beginning was replicated brilliantly. It was mesmerising to watch two stunningly talented musicians at work.

Vocally, Brandy has got to be one of the best in the business. The clarity and purity of her delivery throughout her live shows is just beautiful, and she’s got such a natural ability to tell a story in her songs with such ease. Her performance of ‘Daughter’ from the new album was a great example of this – she sings those lyrics with such passion and sassiness! But it’s the ballads that really showcase her ability; ‘Hold My Hand’ was so simple yet so beautiful. ‘Three Kids No Husband’ drew us all in to the heartbreak and the struggles of the woman in question. It was just an endless string of classics, and I could have watched her all night.

She added a couple of unexpected choices into the set list, saying “I know some of you are coming to more than one show so I’ll try and mix it up!” She did a wonderful cover of George Strait’s ‘The Chair’, which she said was one of her five all-time country favourites. It takes a brave artist to take on a classic by the king, but if there’s anybody that can pull it off, it’s Brandy Clark. She also treated us to a song which she has never actually recorded (I can’t remember the name of it!) and it was classic Brandy. I don’t think she’s ever written a bad song.

Brandy stayed on stage for her ‘encore’ as she didn’t want to risk walking down the stairs in her high heels, provoking a humorous applause from the crowd, pretending she had just walked back out! The encore consisted of two songs, the first of which being ‘Since You’ve Gone To Heaven’. A truly breath-taking performance; I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house. You could have heard a pin drop. Then she brought the mood back up, finishing with fan favourite ‘Pray To Jesus’ which got everybody singing along.

She stayed after the show to sign autographs and take pictures until every person had left the building. Class. Brandy Clark is the real deal, and there was no other female artist I would rather have seen on that stage. She consistently blows me away with every performance, and it’s a shame she’s limited to playing at venues as small as the Glee Club. This girl should be huge.