Branch reaches out.
Review and Photos by Barry Brecheisen"I was weak and you were strong. And me and my guitar, we strummed along," Michelle Branch sang with a refreshing conviction to the sold out crowd at Chicago's Park West a few days ago. Opening with "Sweet Misery" she did just that as she sweetly played her guitar while beautifully backed by her 4-piece band. She may be the latest teen sensation thrown into the spotlight, but don't confuse her with the Britney's of the world. She writes her own songs with the mastery of someone much older. Michelle Branch is a welcome breath of fresh air. Dressed in a smashing black tank top, Michelle looked every bit her tender 18 years of age.
Bathed in cool blue lights she has the angelic looks of a Natalie Imbruglia and the breathy vocal quality of a young Jewel. Her musical sound features a harder edge live. Perhaps it's the resonant booms of the live drums or it may just be the musicians' relationships as they form and bond on the road. Whatever reason, the music is richer and has a sweeter texture. Songs like "You Get Me" has a more vibrant vibe and the electric guitar solo sang it's sweet notes to your subconscious. Still, Michelle is young and is learning how to present herself on stage. She's searching for a style or move that's all her own. However, the mostly teenage crowd didn't seem to notice or care. By the time they played "Everywhere" everyone was singing along while the band bounced in unison. It was definitely the evening's crowd pleaser. Looking into the audience, a fan caught Michelle's eye. "You got great taste," Michelle told Kathleen, a fan who proudly wore a black "Got Mullet" t-shirt. "We have this video camera and at truck stops we photograph mullets," Michelle shared with the crowd. This prompted Kathleen to remove her shirt and presented it to the shocked Michelle. This kinda stuff won't surprise her as she matures. Parent's don't worry, it was one of several layers of clothing Kathleen had on that evening. Remember this is an all-ages show and not a free-for-all Ozzfest.
By the encore, Michelle was proudly displaying her "Got Mullet" t-shirt to the cheering crowd. As a new wave of confidence hit her, she started to shake her hip huggers around the stage like a bubbly Nelly Furtado. The band closed with the cover of the now defunct New Radical's "You Get What You Give." It was so perfect that if I didn't know better it was straight off their CD. Michelle nailed Gregg Alexander's vocal styling and the sound was almost like it was done by the same musicians. Well, guess what? Michelle's two guitarists, Brad and Jim are former members of the New Radicals. I guess that explained why they played the cover so well. Glad to see they're back doing what they do best and backing up someone that should have a bright future ahead of her.
Michelle Branch still has a few dates on the east coast before she hits Japan. So see her now or pay double for her arena tour this summer.
Return to Reviews
Return to Menu