I hadn’t heard of New Zealander Brooke Fraser before I was invited to review her at Shepherds Bush Empire. After a bit of savvy research (read Google and YouTube) I dragged my heels along with a suspicion I was going to watch someone a bit Glee, cleverly disguised.
Even though self-taught Brooke is a platinum selling artist who has supported David Bowie and is well received in the US, my enthusiasm was not infecting me in leaps and bounds. I plead guilty to judging a book by its cover. Or in this case, a singer by how much her record company have decided to focus on her smouldering looks.
Combine that smouldering with the music she writes “about things too difficult to process or talk about” along with one of the most charming personalities I’ve seen on stage this year and I instantly forgot my unfair presumptions. An intimate and clearly adoring audience were treated to Jack Kerouac, Betty and Sailboats from her first ‘proper’ UK album release Flags, all performed with a beautiful, down to earth confidence.
Her introduction to the title track from the album was heartfelt and genuine. She spoke of the “the crazy horrific mess that it is to be alive”. So genuine and frank was the talk from Brooke that I found a tear plopping onto my cheek, completely out of the blue. Something raw and rare is here, to move me so swiftly to tears.
I must stress that an evening in her company was in no way maudlin. Anthemic Something In The Water and a cover of Coldplay’s Violet Hill gave her set a spark. The type of spark that catches starts a blazing fire. I’m someone that likes a bit of chat from the artist I’m going to see. It connects who’s on stage with the audience and as a music lover it’s a treat to hear about someone’s influences and inspirations.
Brooke talks about her music frankly, with passion but most importantly with a vibrant, witty, self-deprecating voice. Between tracks she was hysterically funny and delivered her banter with comic timing (asking the audience if they’d “been to that bloody awful Australian bar next door”). I came away thinking she’s definitely someone I’d want to get drunk and chat nonsense with.
She’s not ethereal enough to be the next Tori Amos, not poppy enough to be likened to Natalie Imbruglia and not edgy enough to threaten the niche Anna Calvi’s has made her very own this year.
But, hand on heart; an evening in her company is something I’d demand you all give yourself up to should the chance arise. A shining personality.
Brooke, you had me the moment you opened your mouth.