I’ve had time to digest it. And still, the only word that really describes Sunday night at the Mayo Performing Arts Center is Wow!
Brynn did not disappoint. Backed by guitarist Deen Anbar, she brought the intimacy of Shanghai Jazz to the 1,300-seat Community Theatre.
Radiating girl-next-door charm–she joked about selling candy in the balcony a decade ago, saying it’s good to have a fallback plan–Brynn shared a handful of upbeat original tunes that even made heartbreak sound hopeful.
The pride of Basking Ridge made it look easy, and feel as cozy as a favorite sweater by the fire on a chilly evening.
None of this came as a surprise; Brynn is superb.
Slideshow photos of Brynn Stanley by Kevin Coughlin
But Jordan Smith? Whoa.
Full disclosure: I have never seen a single episode of The Voice. Before this concert, I did not know Jordan Smith from Michael Jordan.
Why, I wondered, were all the little girls squealing and shouting their love for this mountainous, bespectacled fellow, who, by his own admission looks more like a “building on two feet” than a heartthrob?
Then he sang.
How many people can channel Etta James, Judy Garland and Freddy Mercury?
Smith’s take on At Last was creamy and soulful. His unamplified, a cappella Over the Rainbow encore sent shivers; it was like experiencing this standard for the first time.
And when his four-piece band launched into Queen’s Somebody to Love, he soared above the delicious bombast with horsepower to spare.
The Voice, indeed!
Of course, your correspondent was the only person in the building who had not savored these sonic treats before.
Fans of this 23-year-old Kentuckian, who got his start in a church choir, seemed as enthralled by his improbable story as by the talent driving it. The Voice rejected him after his first audition; someone wised up and called back a year later.
Slideshow photos of Jordan Smith by Kevin Coughlin
Something Beautiful, his first album, covers some of the songs from his TV run; Sunday’s set list included Beyoncé’s Halo and the hymn Great Is Thy Faithfulness.
Smith’s shtick as self-deprecating diva — a Stay Puft Marshmallow Man with pipes–appeared to resonate with young and old at MPAC.
Before singing Settle, he shared advice for anyone excluded from the cool lunch table at school, anyone passed over for a promotion, anyone whose affections were spurned.
“We get caught in situations and people will give us every excuse in the book. They’ll say you’re not smart enough, you’re not good enough, you’re not pretty enough, you’re too pretty — I get that all the time,” Smith said, to laughter.
“People will give you every reason to settle for less than what you deserve. And I’m here to tell you that if no one’s ever told you that you’re good enough, or you’re better than that, this is it. I’m telling you: You’re better than that. You don’t have to settle for anything less than what you deserve.”