Tupelo Owner Scott Hayward
with Headliner Jonatha Brooke, and Opener Carla Ryder
The "Circus" comes to town
By Bruce Bressack
slowly slinked her way to the stage. Gasps filled the air. Knowing smiles
appeared. Eyes opened wide. Hands clapped wildly.
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
was wondering, "Who is Jonatha Brooke?"
Friday, April 15, I saw Brooke perform at The Tupelo and became an instant fan.
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.
‘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.”
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
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 -
Carla Ryder, opening act
I’d be remiss
if I didn’t mention Brooke’s opening act,
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.
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
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
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).
Ryder's website for more information, to sample her music, or to purchase her
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!