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Story and photos by Gypsy DaveyThe stage was coolly adorned with clusters of branches bathed in blue. Hung overhead, center stage, a lunar sphere completed the stage's nightscape ambiance. Early on, and reminiscent of Brandi's all acoustic set the last time she had played Milwaukee, the band gathered in a tight group to serenade an intimate and faithful rendition of Give Up The Ghost's, "I Will," in quasi-a cappella style, as if by camp-side, with only gentle ukulele accompaniment by Phil Hanseroth. Brandi, at the core of her soul, is a performer; It helps tremendously to have been gifted an amazing set of pipes. Her range and vocal tone is impeccable, a true Mezzo-soprano master-class.
After performing another acoustic piece, that of "Caroline," Brandi's congeniality with the crowd was never more evident than her spontaneous restructuring of the evenings set list to accommodate the persistence from one individual who kept hollering "Hide My Heart." This spurred on a bit of a back and forth between audience members, "Johnny Cash" from somewhere else was belted, "Hide My Heart," in response, this time a bit louder. "JOHNNY CASH." "HIDE MY HEART." Smiling all the while tuning for the next song, Brandie spoke, stating that they've changed the set list for this next tune. Interrupted abruptly with yet another yelp of "HIDE MY HEART," she said simply, "That's the one," and began playing "Hiding My Heart" the haunting hidden track from her 2007 release titled The Story.
"Time for some yellin'," said Brandi, and then proceeded to kill us with her raucous "Dreams," the single from Give Up The Ghost. Next, she dug in to what she considers one day becoming a Great American Standard, in like fashion with Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," and played Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'."
Continuing her banter with the crowd, Brandi told of how Elton John - whom she befriended while recording "Caroline" had tried to turn her on to artists that he himself admired. Artists like, Leon Russell, Teddy Thompson and Kings Of Leon. It turns out that her own mother had been recommending Kings Of Leon to her for quite some time. At one point, leaving a message on her machine in song, singing, "You, Your sex is on fire." Something Brandi says you never want to hear your mother say, let alone sung into your answering machine.
Alone at the piano she begins another haunt from her latest release with "Before It Breaks," with "Turpentine," and the hard-driving "The Story" to follow, inviting the audience to participate with the extended chorus on the latter. While back at the piano she covered Gary Jules' "Mad World."
First encore came with the Hanseroth twins Tim and Phil, doing a flawless version of the infamous Simon and Garfunkel tune "Sounds of Silence," to which Brandi made comment by saying, "Isn't that the creepiest most amazing thing you've ever heard." And now, to placate the other half of the dueling out crier, Brandi lays down a magnificent rendition of John and June Carter's "Jackson," that segued right into "Folsom Prison Blues." Not a seated person in the house, and not a one not clapping! The aisles were filled, and all in frenzy.
Seated and quieted by the next piece, introduced as the saddest song on the whole record played by the littlest guitar, she treated us to "That Year," finally ending the evening with "Pride and Joy."
With a fantastic performance to die for, from Brandi & the band, Milwaukee kindly Gave Up The Ghost.
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