Last time Brandi was in the UK she vowed to return and play a Union Chapel show. She didn’t quite fulfill her promise, but despite the lack of pews the intimacy of Islington Assembly Hall is perfect for her and the twins, especially when they move to the unplugged What Can I Say in the middle of the show. Having only seen Brandi perform solo, what tonight really serves to highlight is how important Tim and Phil Hanseroth are to the sound. Their ability to add depth and harmony gives the set pace and variety, proving how integral they are to albums and live shows alike.
Though Raise Hell and Keep Hard Way Home from new album Bear Creek work their way into the night, tonight feels more like a greatest hits show featuring numbers which span her career. Audience requests mean Pride & Joy, a solo version of Looking Out and Turpentine also get an appearance and these are coupled with covers of You’ve Got a Friend and Nothing Compares 2 U. Though she declines the request to cover Bohemian Rhapsody, a version of Dolly Parton’s Jolene more than makes up for this, and goes a long way to prove that Brandi’s vocals carry strength and emotion akin to the pint sized star.
Tonight has a more upbeat vibe than anticipated and though songs like Keep Your Heart Young and Follow are a welcome addition to the set, at times this leaves the more downbeat songs like That Wasn’t me feeling a bit marooned, like a small island in a sea of happiness. Though it’s heartfelt and poignant, especially as Brandi gives the song context in the introduction as she talks about playing it in Seattle prison, tonight’s guitar version doesn’t quite measure up to the passion that the piano gives the album version.
Overall, though it’s Brandi’s voice which first drew me in, tonight is about the chemistry on stage. She and the twins have a natural rhythm which sees them play and move around the stage in perfect harmony. Though Brandi is an incredible musician, when combined with the twins the result is a formidable band who bridge folk and country, and have rightly garnered a cult like following.