After her superb CD Wound & Will, reviewed in last week’s Current, my expectations of Little Brave presenting her album in concert where high. But nothing could have prepared me for what I saw Saturday night.
See, Little Brave (formerly known as Stephanie Briggs) can’t do anything simple. Don’t get me wrong: her music — which jumps from folk ballads to indie rockers to Beatlesque melodies to jazzy atmospheres — and confessional lyrics are direct, catchy, and simple enough to be embraced by your mom. But we’re talking Little Brave here, and with her it’s all about execution and arrangements — both visual and sonic.
The show started in complete darkness, except for a spotlight following a ballerina on the floor doing both modern and classic dance routines, while Little Brave (sporting a horizontal pink mark across her forehead) pounced on her electric piano the somber notes of “The Invitation,” and Mark Williams (cello) and Andy Tindall (violin) added haunting magic to an attention-grabbing intro. The whole eight-piece band had their faces painted as skulls.
Then, with each band member covered by silk-like pink sheets (mosquito netting?) and Little Brave wearing a crown of ribbons, the band picked up the pace with a rousing rendition of “Cut & Paste” while two women gradually cut the ribbons with scissors as the song went on.
Each song was separated by a few seconds of special sound effects, and each had a distinctive setting: eye masks and school marching band uniforms figured both onstage and at the club entrance, with a tuba player and drummer walking through the crowd towards the stage at one point. Guitarist Luke Leverett switched to a banjo on “Time to Forget”; the band sang backup chorus on the minimalist folk of “Ruin Mine” (“the most honest song I ever wrote,” Brave said); and a troupe of puppeteers from Austin (the Puppet Improv Project) danced and clowned around until the puppets “fainted” as Little Brave touched their heads (“Blame”). Little Brave showed off her pipes in a power-ballad version of “You Didn’t Mean It,” perhaps her best song.
Yes, the night started in complete darkness, but it ended with a proper confetti fest and a rocking version of “Mercy,” the album’s opening track. Not a single song from her fine previous two albums was shared. None were needed. The Little Brave we saw at Sam’s has healed whatever needed to be healed, and she was full of the confidence of someone who knows exactly what she wants to achieve as an artist.
This was easily the best show I’ve seen so far this year, and it wasn’t about the confetti: it was about the songs and the vision of a top-notch all-around artist the regional music scene should be proud of.