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
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.
Brad's home page for more on the band and their new album
Brad's music and listen to samples.
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