Hippo Manchester
April 28, 2005


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Tupelo Owner Scott Hayward with Headliner Jonatha Brooke, and Opener Carla Ryder
Bruce Bressack photo

The "Circus" comes to town

Singer Jonatha Brooke wows Tupelo Crowd

By Bruce Bressack

The performer slowly slinked her way to the stage. Gasps filled the air. Knowing smiles appeared. Eyes opened wide. Hands clapped wildly.

And the instigator of all this deliriously-happy-turmoil was Jonatha Brooke.

A few weeks ago, I was standing near the ticket counter at the Tupelo Music Hall and heard a chorus of wows, followed by sounds of mild-to-extreme disbelief and then a staccato chant of, “She’s playing here? When? How did they book her? I'll take four tickets!”

Meanwhile, I was wondering, "Who is Jonatha Brooke?"

Then on Friday, April 15, I saw Brooke perform at The Tupelo and became an instant fan.

Brooke had just flown back from France, where she opened for Joe Cocker in front of 20,000 people. Most of us would have been exhausted beyond belief, but not Brooke. She gave two faultless, breathtaking performances that night.

Brooke is on tour promoting her latest CD, Back In The Circus ,and she opened her set with the title song. The tune has a lilting, merry-go-round feel to it and when Brooke sings “every man’s the same, only the times and places change,” the impish smile on her face tells you that she’s been there and done that.

The song ‘Better After All’ tells the story of love that’s slipping away, and knowing in your heart that you’ll be better off without that person in your life. You can tell that Brooke understood, and has come to terms with this reality, when she sings, “I am trying to read your mind, you are going to break my heart, you are stringing me along, and this is better after all.”

When she introduced the song 'Sally', she mentioned that her friend had just given birth to her second child and then claimed she had “forgotten to have children.” This was just one example of her easy, humorous style which always seemed to connect with the audience.

'Everything I Wanted' is a catchy, bouncy tune with a chorus that tells you that Brooke is perfectly content with her life. Want proof? Here’s the chorus, “Everything’s the same but my name, and I have everything I wanted, for a change I’m not ashamed, and I have everything I wanted.”

Back In The Circus is beautifully produced and orchestrated, and I'd recommend it to anyone. But what was most impressive that night is that all the songs worked when she performed them solo. How rare these days!

If you want to sample the intimacy, immediacy, and spontaneity of a Brooke performance, check out her CD Jonatha Brooke Live.  Start with the song “Ten Cent Wings” and you’ll be hooked.

Brooke is a talented artist, proficient on guitar and piano, with a vocal style and stage presence that’s pure, powerful and provocative.

And, when you add well-constructed and performed songs to the mix, with unexpected chord changes and interestingly-different lyrics, it’s a winning-combination that’s clearly destined for artistic and commercial success.

Visit Brooke’s website for more information, to sample her music, or to purchase her CDs - www.jonathabrooke.com


Carla Ryder, opening act

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Brooke’s opening act, Carla Ryder.

Ryder, a Boston native, is a veteran of the music scene who has opened for folks like Beck, Dylan, and 10,000 Maniacs. With a total of six albums under her belt, she has toured extensively and developed a loyal and enthusiastic following from New England to the Pacific Northwest.

Ryder typically performs with her full band, so getting up on the stage “alone” that night was gutsy! She said it was her first acoustic appearance in 10 years and that [according to Jackie 'O], “You have to do one thing every year that terrifies you.”

While Carla’s first set was good, you could sense that she was getting used to her “new digs” and that underneath she was like a volcano ready to erupt.

So, it was no surprise when she belted it out of the park during her second set. Ryder was confident and capable, and her rapport with the audience (during both sets) was a joy to behold.

In a surprise move, Ryder brought her old friend Tom Groleau on stage, and he backed her up on acoustic guitar. They played two songs together, and you definitely got a taste for what happens when Ryder gets to play, all out, “with the band.” Hats off to Groleau, who came to see a show and then unexpectedly became part of it.

The “do one thing a year that terrifies you” philosophy worked its magic that evening, and I look forward to catching Ryder again (with, or without, band).

Visit Ryder's website for more information, to sample her music, or to purchase her CDs at www.carlaryder.com.

Be sure to listen to Ryder's song, Lonesome Town, from her brand new album "Til The End Of Counting". It's a great example of playing "all out with the band", and it's story-telling-songwriting at its best!