You may remember Happy from Ohio's own awesomely underrated Howling Maggie, his tenure with Afghan Whigs, or perhaps seen him in recent years playing with RJD2. If you are not familiar, rectify the situation with the quickness, as Happy is one of the most talented and underrated musicians out there. He played solo, switching between guitar and keys, but killing it the entire time. Chichester's clavinet playing is top notch, and the soulful singing does little to dispel the Stevie Wonder comparisons. There were some Columbus ex-pats in the house, as well as ex-partners in the extended Afghan Whigs touring lineup, holding up the vocal end of things for a crowd that seemed much more inclined to see a band with a Pearl Jam connection. They were respectful enough, perhaps swayed by Happy mentioning that he'd be playing with Brad during their set, owing to their keys guys having to return home unexpectedly. Happy's most recent record is called Lovers Come Back, it's been out for a bit, but it is well worth picking up from him here.
Brad were up in short order, to a considerably fuller and more enthusiastic crowd than I remember there being at the Highline show a while back. Shawn Smith is in full on Dr. John meets Leon Russell mode in his old age. He commands a crowd nicely grabbing the Bowery crowd from the first song and not letting go for over an hour of music that was part rock show and part revival meeting. Like all of us, Smith is not getting any younger, but he is in impeccable voice of late. The men of Brad are out promoting the new record Best Friends, out courtesy of Pearl Jam's Monkeywrench Records. Grunge had not died for many of the fans in attendance, with many a bandana and ponytail rocked without irony and it was obvious that Pearl Jam was a name that held serious weight to the crowd. Toe Jam are a band that I have yet to see the appeal of beyond a couple songs on that first record, but they seem an ultimately benign force in the rock world. For the uninitiated, PJ axeman Stone Gossard plays guitar in Brad, and has pretty much concurrently with his tenure in Toe Jam. In a lot of ways, Brad are Pearl Jam if they had keyboards in a more prominent role and had a singer who could sing.
Smith sang his diminutive ass off, and seemed openly moved by the level of adulation he got from the crowd. This show was one of the last shows of the tour. Brad definitely seemed to be firing on all cylinders, with great crowd response that got them called back for a couple encores. Brad were a damn good time. Here's hoping that we get them back in town again soon. Look for a review of the exceedingly good new Best Friends on JS-NYC soon and check the Jimmy Fallon web presence to see Brad play two tracks (Low and Every Whisper) from it. Here's a link.