Show Review: Jay Brannan at Great American Music Hall 8/4/12

by Marie Carney on August 7, 2012

Jay Brannan’s stories are so good, he even makes himself laugh

Leaving the Great American Music Hall Saturday night, sure we talked about the great show and how opener Chris Pureka was a perfect fit, but mostly we talked about how Jay Brannan should be a superstar.  His personality beams charm at you from the stage and his voice is clear tenor perfection that emotes every single word, so much so that it can almost break your heart. So why isn’t he super famous?  He’s certainly attractive enough. But alas, not only do his lyrics deal with loneliness and depression but he is also openly gay.  I hope that one day that won’t matter and all the people will love his music like I do, and if he keeps playing like he did at this show it could happen.

Chris Pureka turned out to be a well suited opener for the show.  She played acoustic guitar and some sort of fancy pedal that had different samples (drums and strings) on it.  Accompanying her was a woman on electric bass and back up vocals.  The combination of instruments was interesting and helped keep the performance dynamic.  The songs themselves were a deep folk with a slight blues-y tinge. With all that going on of course the audience cheered and cheered after every song.

Chris Pureka

The standout part of the performance though was the vocals.  Most of the time I couldn’t understand the words but listening to Chris Pureka’s voice was like listening to a musical ocean. I found myself swaying along and letting the melody and richness wash over me.  To top all that off her back up singer was amazing at blending in the harmonies. She must have a great voice on her own, but she never pushed it understanding that it was her job to boost the lead vocals. Her harmonies were subtle and pressing giving the songs just the right amount of something special.

This was the first seated show I’d been to at Great American, so I wasn’t sure what would happen when Jay Brannan came out.  I can’t say I was surprised when all the biggest fans rushed the stage so the crowd ended up looking more like his previous Bottom of the Hill shows then a fancy seated show.  And I liked it better that way.

Jay Brannan seemed in good spirits from his first moments on stage, teasing the audience about being sluts.  He talked for a fair amount before going in to his opening song “Rob Me Blind,” and he continued the mix of stories/banter and songs with about the same amount spent on each. Either Jay Brannan really understands that we (his fans) keep bringing our friends to his show mostly because we know, even if for some crazy reason they don’t like his songs, we know they’ll like his stories.  It’s either brilliant planning or further proof of Jay Brannan’s amazing natural talent.

As fun as the talking was it really is still about Jay Brannan’s voice.  Not just the quality of his singing voice, but his specific lyrical voice as well.  You can really feel his heartbreak and loneliness in songs like “Everywhere There’s Statues” and “Can’t Have it All.”  It’s a sentiment I think we all can understand in our modern world where I feel like I make fewer personal connections every year (though I guess that’s growing older too isn’t it?). But I think the real song that showcases his voice in both ways is “Goddamned” a heartfelt and beautiful song against the cruelty religion can bring out in people and a good argument for atheism. It is such a beautiful song with a slow building melody and intense darkness I was excited to get to hear it live.

All that I’m trying to tell you is the same thing Jay Brannan would tell you if he was writing this:  Go see him live!  He is his own manager and PR person, or as I’ve heard him say in the past, each one of his fans is too.  So if you live in or near San Diego, Phoenix, Tuscon, Dallas, Austin, Houston, Charlotte, Atlanta, Birmingham, Nashville, Orlando and New York please check out his tour schedule.  He is coming to you soon!

Setlist:

Rob Me Blind
At First Sight
Your House (Alanis Morissette cover)
Everywhere There’s Statues
Housewife
Can’t Have it All
My Love, My Love
La La La
Super Bass (Nicki Minaj cover)
Beautifully
On All Fours
A Love Story
Goddamned
The Spanglish Song

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