With the main complaint about lack next years C2C being the lack of women, what an apt time for one of the previous main stage artists to hit the London stage and put in a performance that immediately staked her place as someone who is going to take 2020 by storm when her new album lands.
This was a performance that did not let up from the opening drum beat introducing "Girl Next Door", to the very last song performed solo. With a full band including a cello player, keyboards, bass and guitar, the Shepherds Bush Empire was clapping along from the very start with the ground floor seated rather than the usual standing melee. Following on with the title track of her second album "Big Day In a Small Town" she exuded the confidence of someone on the absolute top of their game. Ignoring any jet lag, she just carried on tearing through her second album, "Love Can Go To Hell" saw the cello high in the mix as well as the drummer and bass player adding the backing vocals.
Brandy is always good company, able to create a great rapport with her fans and the high quality start never saw a dip throughout the set in fact if anything it just got better and better,. There next followed an extended guitar intro that eventually gave way to "Get High" which was followed a souflul smooth version of the 2017 single "You're Drunk". The switch from old to material can sometimes be a jarring point in a live show but as Brandy moved to a new song section, it only served to whet the appetite for the record to come.
The first of them "Love Is a Fire" had something of a 60's warm vibe about it, with the organ and cello high in the mix in a sort of Brandy does Dusty! The next "Bottom Of The Ocean" had something of a classic country feel about it attached to a typically acerbic chorus. The next new song, and possibly best of the bunch was "Pawn Shop" no relation to the Brothers Osborne song, had a delicious hook line in the chorus. With Brandy's acoustic guitar leading the way, and with a great electric riff behind it - this had just about everything even a cello solo and was instantly likeable. The final part of the new song section saw two songs run together "Who You Thought I Was", inspired by a John Prine quote, was a subtle piece of country but one that that instantly fitted into her repertoire as if it had always been there running into another soulful song "Can We Be Strangers?". Brandy duly thanked for listening attentively to a batch of new songs however really the pleasure was ours.
The next section began with "Pray To Jesus" before we got to see Brandy in her element playing solo as the best were rested for a few numbers. It initially started with a hilarious tribute to the film "Jaws" which was a preamble to introducing a new song "Bigger Boat", which she teased us will arrive on the new album with Randy Newman providing vocals. it had some biting yet apposite lyrics tinged with her trademark line in humour. An audience twitter submission meant that there was a real treat in a beautiful cove rof George Strait's "The Chair". A little run of inspirational covers then followed with "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" and "Blue Bayou" which saw some of the band return and Brandy hit a proper big sustained closing note!! There was then a drift back to some old school country with "Together Again", a beautiful ballad.
The closing straight saw a return to some more familiar Brandy classics, her favourite revenge song in "Daughter", segued into "Good Hearted Woman". There was a slow guitar intro that eventually led into "Hold My Hand", it ended with Brandy and Vanessa the bass player exchanging smiles at a great job done and in appreciation of the audience participation. The last song of a highly entertaining set inevitably fell to "Stripes", leaving everyone on a high.
The encore when it came was both subtle and solo, a Lori McKenna co write from the second album "Three Kids No Husband" delivered with style letting each line sink in.
She'll be back to plug the new album next year - for a tour that will be simply unmissable.
The evening had begun with a set from Kyle Daniel and his guitarist partner making their UK debut. Armed with just two acoustic guitars, they had the look of 2 guys used to making a lot more noise but who were going to do the most with the tools at their disposal and they made for an entertaining opening set.
They started with "What's There To Say", Kyle with some passionate gravelly vocals, with his bandana wearing colleague Seth Rentfrow providing backing vocals. Kyle picked out the main guitar line on "Somewhere In Between" which may have been missing the driving drum beat of the recorded version but gained a little more passion in the vocals to more than make up for it.
The first song that sounded like it would really have benefited from the full band was "Hangover Town", not that it was bad, just that you imagine it would have really rocked the Empire to its foundations if the full band had been there. There was a heartfelt song "Landline" that dealt with feeling a little bit of home while out on the road, it immediately stood out as being something special.