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October 28, 2002 -  @ The Bowery Ballroom, New York 
by John Theobald

The knit-cap contingent packed New York’s Bowery Ballroom, one of NYC’s most pleasant mid-sized venues, on this chilly Monday night for Brad’s sold out performance with show opener, Harold “Happy” Chichester of Howlin' Maggie.  Brad, currently touring in support of their recently released third album “Welcome To Discovery Park” are also creating an extra buzz with the recent return of bass player Jeremy Toback and having guitarist Stone Gossard of Pearl Jam fame in the band doesn’t hurt get people’s attention either.  Fronted by the talented Shawn Smith, Brad, deliver a soulful rock sound that has helped the band gain a cult following in their own right.

Despite an uncooperative guitar the effusively charming Happy Chichester managed to knock out an opening set of keyboard ballads and guitar rock to warm up the crowd. Happy’s ballads in general were more successful than the rockers, that sometimes seemed to want for a band. Overall Happy’s endearing stage presence compensated for his technical difficulties and prepared the crowd for the show. 

Brad opened the show with a bluesy ballad but quickly changed the pace following up with a full out guitar rock tune.  Despite the constant calls from the crowd of “Stone… Stone” it was clear that despite the guitarist’s Pearl Jam pedigree that Brad is indeed its own band. It was bassist Jeremy Toback who occupied center stage for most the evening with lead singer Sean Smith often crooning off to the left hand side of the stage, only occupying the spotlight at opportune moments.  Toback’s talents, apparent throughout the show, were showcased in a solo song that served as one of the evening’s highlights.  Toback, an accomplished solo artist,  provided a confident and inspiring performance during both his one solo tune and throughout the show.   

Following the pace set with their first two songs, Brad alternated between full on guitar rock and bluesy ballads throughout the show. Live, the band displayed an intensity and richness of sound unexpected from the general low-key mood of “Welcome To Discovery Park”. This intensity and tightness of the band was most effective during the rock tunes. Even in the back of the room the music was enveloping the crowd, filling the room with its richness. The ballads, given character by Smith’s distinctively soulful breaking voice, added a nice contrast and range to the set but occasionally seemed to drag on a bit longer than necessary. 

This particular Monday happened to be frontman Shawn Smith’s birthday, adding a sense of levity to the show Happy, who joined the band on several occasions, brought a candled birthday cake on stage for Smith accompanied by a half hearted rendition of “Happy Birthday” from the band.  Smith quickly resumed the show continuing on unfazed. 

At the first darkening of the lights the fans, clearly pleased but not yet ready to go home, stomped and called loudly for the requisite encore.  Brad more than obliged.  The encore extended to virtually an entire second set with the band never losing the crowd’s attention. Rapt and in full attendance at the end of the lengthy encore the crowd demanded more.  A clearly exhausted Smith obliged with a solo piano ballad that closed the show nicely.

Overall, Brad provided an enjoyable show and a stunningly tight performance. While the band’s songs in themselves were a standard blend of familiar sounding ballads and rockers’ the brilliance of Brad was in the delivery. Soulful and tight’ Brad’s fine musicians provided an memorable show to an appreciative crowd.

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