Brandy Clark, The Sage, Gateshead – January 31 2020

I drove 100 miles north hoping to wallow in Brandy Clark’s repertoire about bored or beleaguered housewives, delicious revenge ditties and heart melting love stories. She has a beautiful voice and has written some classic country melodies, not least on her own albums. Previous concerts revealed a consummate but serious, and not particularly engaging artist. She was getting her time in the spotlight after years of stoking the star-making machinery by writing amazing songs for other country Royalty. However on the night, in front of an audience of over 400, we got a relaxed woman at ease with herself and beyond chatty!

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She was playing five European dates debuting her new album – Your Life Is A Record. (This is before a big US tour starting in February and continuing until May) The six songs from the new album were immediate as regards their impact. She’s said that the arrangements are different to her earlier releases, not least, for the inclusion of more strings. To achieve the sound with her backing band she brought along Kaitlyn Raitz on cello. There was a story behind her latest single “Who You Thought I Was”. Here it tells the end of a relationship but the title idea came from attending an award’s ceremony where John Prine was giving one of the accolades. He was taken aback by a standing ovation; with characteristic dry humour he commented, “I’m John Prine, but I’d like to go back to being who you thought I was”! The other five songs she played are a continuation of lyrical themes and quality melodies from earlier records. It’s released in March and you’ll be well rewarded.

The band also comprised Billy Adamson on electric guitar and Ashleigh Caudill on upright bass. They’d all met up in Oslo (at baggage reclaim) for the first time. They fitted in seamlessly: Adamson’s skilful and well placed flourishes and Caudill’s additional talent on backing vocals. Holding this all together was Danny Young on drums and vocals. The set of 23 songs showcased the first two albums equally. It was here that the humour of her take on life shone through with great introductions to favourites such as “Mama’s Broken Heart”, “Stripes”, “Daughter” and “Get High”. On the latter she commented that around the world fans would sidle up to her and tell her that the character in the song was their own sister!

The slower songs included my personal favourites of “Three Kids and No Husband” and “Hold My Hand”. The ability to say so much in so few words is a true gift. And then came the covers by Waylon Jennings (“Good Hearted Woman”), George Strait (“The Chair”) and Buck Owens (“Together Again”). She played “Blue Bayou” as a tribute to Linda Ronstadt. They were all homages to the influences of her own youth, which illustrated her early wonderment of country or great songwriters and vocalists.

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Thanking the audience and effusively confirming how much she enjoyed playing the UK, she treated us to an unplanned encore song. She name checked another 70s icon, Carole King, and sang “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”: the crowd, now on their feet, said yes.

 

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