Joe Brooks (Artist of the Week) - 3/25/2013 @ Jammin’ Java
Top 40 music was pumping from the speakers last night as a crowd of teenage girls filed into Jammin’ Java eager to see Joe Brooks, singer/songwriter and indie heartthrob. Brooks, who is currently a week into his tour with The Rocket Summer as direct support, took advantage of his night off to schedule a headline show here in Vienna, Virginia.
While outside it was an unseasonably cold and snowy March night, inside the opening acts were warming up the crowd. Fifteen-year-old EDM virtuoso Theycalledmepiano captivated Jammin’ Java with her impressive synth skills and rich, expressive voice. Next up was Tidewater, a folksy three-piece headed by singer Brett Allen, whose sweetly romantic lyrics about love and marriage were well-received by the overwhelmingly female audience.
The crowd pressed in towards the stage as they waited for Joe Brooks to make his appearance. Brooks bounded on stage, guitar in hand, to cheers and applause; then he began the set with a medley of Jason Mraz’s “You Make Me High” and an acoustic deconstruction of his song “Green Eyes.”
Then Brooks was joined by his band: Matt de la Garza on drums, Clinton Babers II on keys, and new member Braden Lyle on electric guitar. All three provided backup vocals that dovetailed perfectly with Brooks’ impressive range and signature falsetto riffs. With the addition of Lyle, Brooks’ music has taken a decidedly high-octane turn. The old songs so familiar to the audience got an injection of swing and classic rock influence that had the crowd clapping and rocking along like the congregation at a Southern Baptist church. As he dove into vocal acrobatics and two harmonica solos, it was obvious that this young Brit wouldn’t have traded his spot on the stage for anything in the world.
Brooks treated the Vienna audience to four songs from his upcoming album, “The Boy and the Broken Machine,” including “Six String Soldier,” “Toronto,” and “The Island,” all of which were bursting at the seams with infectious energy and exuberance.
About “The Island,” Brooks said: “This has become my new motto in this industry, that I will stand and live by.” And indeed, this stand-out of a song has “anthem” written all over it: “I will never let it go / I’d sooner die than lay my sword / And through the blood no fear does show / It’s time to go big or to go home.”
Brooks mesmerized the audience with an extended version of his insistent ballad “Holes Inside,” followed by a new song, “Carousel,” which, with its haunting circus melody and Brooks’ pitch-perfect falsetto work, produced the most silent crowd I have ever heard at Jammin’ Java. “Carousel,” Brooks sang, “This is the way that the world goes round / Spinning in circles, ride to the highest of heights / Before it brings you back down again.”
Joe Brooks has always known how to give a memorable performance, and I was glad to see that he’s only improved since I saw him in Vienna in 2011. If last night was any indication, his music has since been colored with a streak of reckless enthusiasm. Expect nothing short of brilliance when “The Boy and the Broken Machine” is released this spring.
Check out the full setlist below:
1. Medley: You Make Me High (Jason Mraz) and Green Eyes (acoustic)
2. Hello Mr. Sun
3. The Island
4. Six String Soldier
6. ‘Til My Heart Stops Beating
7. Holes Inside
9. Rules of Attraction
11. Medley: Too Hard to Handle (Otis Redding), Cough Syrup (Young the Giant), Come Together (The Beatles), Lonely Boy (The Black Keys)
12. Superman (acoustic)
13. Do It Like a Dude (Jessie J.)
14. Price Tag (Jessie J.)