Paul Brady Wows the Freight

Paul Brady Wows the Freight, November 8 2015

Ireland’s leading singer-songwriter, Paul Brady, gave a bravura solo performance on November 8 the the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley. He’s been playing for over forty years but he’s lost none of his fire and drive. He got his chi moving early on, playing himself into the mood of the evening with a few whoops and leaps.

On any given night at the Freight, the audience is largely composed of musicians of various stripes. The ratio was significantly higher for Brady and there were some high-wattage attendees, among them Bonnie Raitt and David Crosby. Raitt is a long-time friend and musical collaborator of Brady’s and we were hoping for a duet (Not the Only One?) but Bonnie was flying incognito.

The sound is often a marvel at the Freight and Brady’s acoustic setup with one mic for his stratospheric voice and guitar gave stunning clarity and depth. Brady also had keyboards for some of his most compelling performances: Paradise is Here, The Island (surely the most pointed and poignant of anti-war songs), and a riveting version of Restless Heart, which he said he had not sung for years. Mother and Son from his Hooba Dooba album brought the house to its feet and a few tears.

He had a couple of new songs but the standout was a full-blown ballad, Unfinished Business. Brady said he had to find his inner Dean Martin for that one but to me he sounded more like a soulful Ray Charles. He sang You Win Again from the great Hank Williams, with complete country conviction.

Old favorites were well represented and wildly appreciated, especially the selection from the angry 80s: Steel Claw, Busted Loose, and Nothing but the Same old Story. He sang quite a few from his incredible anthology of anthems: Nobody Knows, Follow On and Crazy Dreams but inevitably some favorites did not feature (Sea of Love, for me). Brady wanted more audience participation than he got on his hymn to resilience, The World is What You Make It.

He can’t do a show without the classics, Arthur McBride and The Lakes of Pontchartrain, Brady should sing unaccompanied more often, which he did on one verse of Pontchartrain, and as he does with Sinead O’Connor on In This Heart on the Vicar Street Sessions Vol 1.

Brady returns to Ireland at the end of this tour and will be honored with a lifetime achievement award at the National Concert Hall on November 20. It’s already sold-out and one small irritant from his show at the Freight is that it was not a sell-out. If you didn’t make it, you missed one of the most unforgettable shows of recent times.

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