Live Review: Brandy – Enmore Theatre, Sydney (20.06.16)

Back in the 90s, when standards in R&B were still a thing, Brandy rose to become one of the genre’s best known and successful solo performers, eclipsing her contemporaries with a remarkably golden husky voice, defined by the kind of warmth and charisma that easily set her apart and set her on the path to super-stardom. Though her musical output waned in consistency during the 2000s – mostly due to some great producers’ worst beats (I’m looking at you Rodney Jenkins) – there weren’t many who could deny the powerful, robust voice that only seemed to strengthen as Brandy continued her journey through ups (Afrodisiac) and downs (Human). It seems overdue for her to tour Australia for the first time after such a prolific career, but nevertheless, her current “Slayana World Tour” gave Sydney fans a long-awaited chance to witness Brandy’s comeback, and it was far from disappointing.

Brandy’s immersion in the world of Broadway, through playing Roxie Hart in Chicago, has quite obviously had a huge impact on the way she performs. Her live show was considered, well-rehearsed, and dramatic, opening with a swirling jazz influenced – and slightly excessive – number before flowing into “Afrodisiac”, lifted far beyond the recorded version with a bouncy harmony of clacking percussion and smooth bass helped along by a small band. Early fan-favourites “What About Us?” and “Full Moon” quickly followed, the former replacing Jenkins glitchy funk with a more simple package of drum and bass, allowing Brandy’s vocals more room to flow around the theatre.

brandythree

The way Brandy navigates the stage with her two backing dancers is elegant, with strong, exaggerated movements punchy enough to be considered physical manifestations of the music, again highlighting her theatrical lean but still feeling natural and open. As the set progressed, sometimes the choreography would become more clumsy than poised, but it would always enliven the music, shaping each cut as much more than their recorded versions.

The set was at its strongest when the band was most apparent, building bouncy mid-tempo jams like “Angel in Disguise”, “Wildest Dreams” and “Who Is She 2 U?” or playing background to Brandy’s strong, tender vocals on “Have You Ever?” and a fantastic mesh of covers with Coldplay’s “Magic” stitched into Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature”.

Almost all songs performed were unfortunately shortened versions – often a verse and a hook – with Brandy opting for an energetic medley style, though the stellar execution made up for rapid-fire renditions of classics like “I Wanna Be Down” and “Baby”. Surprisingly more attention was given to hits “Top of the World” and – one of her all-time greatest – “Sittin’ Up in My Room”, although the former would have served better if they cut Mase’s barely audible verse, and Brandy didn’t feel the need to half-rap it in between breathes while keeping up with her dancers.

brandytwo

By far her most successful song, “The Boy Is Mine” – a duet with Monica – was strangely used as more of an interlude than an actual performance, Brandy bringing up an audience member – chosen at random – who nailed Monica’s part and was jokingly ushered off “before she steals the show”. It wasn’t hard to believe that the fan was picked at random, as the crowd was full of aspiring vocalists, which made the sing-a-longs to tracks like “Almost Doesn’t Count” and “Best Friend” sound sweet and melodic; a rarity at concerts, where the majority are usually off-beat and awkward.

Of course, a Whitney Houston tribute needed to be worked into the set, and here is where the band proved most valuable. Instead of slowing things down, Brandy decided to go with Whitney’s two biggest party anthems, “How Will I Know” and “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”, both expertly blended with a blanket of synths and electronics that put an exciting twist on the timeless songs, followed by a softer, graceful cover of “Exhale (Shoop Shoop)”, thankfully extended and allowing Brandy to properly showcase her stunning range.

brandyfour

Two Eleven single “Put It Down” closed out the main set with a vigorous light display and Brandy’s infectious enthusiasm, making way for a return to the more jazz-influenced style for the one-song-encore of “Beggin’ & Pleadin'”, her distinctive new single that has Brandy adding a bit more swing to her vocals.

Brandy has made a big push at reinvigorating her music now she has had experience on Broadway, and this live show was a great showcase of where the 37 year old vocalist is at right now, and what direction she is heading for her inevitable seventh studio album, which if treated with the same pizzazz and structure as this live show, should be a very welcome comeback from one of the 90s most treasured R&B vocalists.

Set List

Afrodisiac
I Thought
What About Us?
Full Moon
Who Is She 2 U?
Top of the World
Sittin’ Up in My Room
In These Streets Interlude
Baby
Best Friend
I Wanna Be Down
The Boy is Mine
Angel in Disguise
Necessary
Almost Doesn’t Count
Have You Ever
Magic (Coldplay Cover)/Human Nature (Michael Jackson Cover)
How Will I Know/I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Whitney Houston Covers)
Exhale (Shoop Shoop) (Whitney Houston Cover)
Wildest Dreams
Put It Down

Encore
Beggin’ & Pleadin’

All images captured by Belinda Dipalo for the AU review. For our full photo gallery click HERE

———-

This content has recently been ported from its original home on The AU Review: Music and may have formatting errors – images may not be showing up, or duplicated, and galleries may not be working. We are slowly fixing these issue. If you spot any major malfunctions making it impossible to read the content, however, please let us know at editor AT theaureview.com.

Chris Singh

Chris Singh is the Deputy-Editor-At-Large of the AU review, loves writing about travel and hospitality, and is partial to a perfectly textured octopus. You can reach him on Instagram: @chrisdsingh.