Show Review: Jay Brannan, David Smallen, Jhameel at Bottom Of The Hill, 1/21/2011

by Heather Beaudry on January 26, 2011

Having traveled 3,000+ miles from San Francisco to Florida to see Jay Brannan in September, because I just couldn’t wait to see him again, you could say I’m a big fan.   Suffice it to say the show Friday night was the highlight of my week.

Jahameel opened for Jay Brannan back in June at Bottom of the Hill (BOTH).  That time, it was just Jahameel and his instruments on stage and he delivered a solid performance.  However, this time he was even better because he had a full band with him.  The drummer was especially talented and his back-up singer’s voice harmonized with Jahameel’s oh-so nicely.  His songs are a bit faster and a lot poppier than Jay’s, but seeing as he is also a singer/songwriter with great skill as a lyricist they compliment each other well.   I highly recommend everyone to go see Jahameel and his band!

The second opener, Dave Smallen, was another singer/song-writer who has an excellent voice and played for about 30 minutes.

At 11:30pm Jay took the stage to a deafeningly enthusiastic welcome from the crowd.  I was impressed to see how much he has grown as a performer, remembering the first few times I had seen him at BOTH and Jay would come on stage in the “don’t look at the crowd zone” while got set up and settled in.   This time, he wasn’t on the stage for more than a few seconds when he began bantering with the crowd.  He was in the best, most playful mood I’d ever seen him.

As obvious as this is to his fans, it still needs to be said that Jay is an amazing song-writer/singer.  On top of his unquantifiable talents as a lyricist, he has the most beautifully melodic voice of any singer I know.  He could sit and read Tolstoy and I’d be entranced.

One of the special treats about seeing Jay perform is what I like to think of as his trademark smile.  It’s a sly smile, sly in the way of having a really juicy secret to tell.   To me this smile is enchanting.  It draws you in and makes it feel as if it’s just you and him hanging out and all the other people in the audience fade into the background and from the smile the music takes over.

He played many crowd favorites including: “Goddamned,” “Housewife” and “Soda Shop,” just to name a few.  He also accepted audience requests with non-chalance when someone asked him to play “Half-Boyfriend.  I could write a thousand words on the brilliance of his songs, but really you just have to listen to them and let them into your soul.

Jay does not hide his obsessions with contemporary pop singers and current radio hits.  He teased the crowd with a few measures of Ke$ha’s, “Tik Tok” and Katy Perry’s, “Firework”.   These moments almost always dissolve into laughter when the crowd realizes they’ve been had.   This was most hysterical when Jay was lamenting about the fact that there are only four chords on the guitar and these are the same chords in nearly every song.  He began by playing the chord progression to one of the covers he had done for his second album, Jann Arden’s, “Good Mother” but then started singing, “My Heart Will Go On,” by Celine Dion as made famous in the movie Titanic.  Within seconds the entire audience was singing along, which caught Jay totally off guard.

Jay announced that he is currently recording a new album and excited to be working with such a brilliant producer.  But rather than tell us who this producer is, he sang a snippet of Regina Spektor’s song “Fidelity.”  Jay thinks it’s amazing that this producer has worked with Regina Spektor, an artist he looks up to and thinks is super talented.  However, David Kahne’s resume is even more impressive because he has also worked with Paul McCartney, Kelly Clarkson and Cher; as well as arranging “Manic Monday” and “Walk Like An Egyptian.”  In spite of the fact that no release date has been scheduled yet, I anxiously await the new album.

I expect everyone to go see Jay the next time he comes to San Francisco.  Trust me, you won’t be disappointed as he is one of the most entertaining and charismatic performers out there!

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