An hour is all Clairy Browne needs to transform the famous Spiegeltent from circus tent to 1960s Motown jive bar. With her Bangin’ Rackettes in tow, Browne rips through a set that oozes sexuality and effortlessly channels a mix of The Supremes and Tina Turner. The end result is a performance that reaffirms Browne’s status as one of this country’s most vivacious live performers.
The first thing to notice about Browne and Co is that they understand the value of combining musicianship with theatrics. From choreographed dance moves to the band’s blaring horn section, the group nails that ‘old school’ Motown vibe. The second thing to notice is Browne herself. She’s an absolute – for lack of a better term – spunk; a frontwoman who has all the confidence in the room and some to spare.
Performing before a fervent crowd, the band wastes little time in pumping out their best known tune, “Love Letter”. It generates an atmosphere that holds steady for the remainder of the show. “Vicious Cycle” flows next before “I’ll Be Fine”, a number that wouldn’t look uncomfortable in the Sister Act soundtrack (yep, I just wrote that. And yes, I have it at home), gets everyone soul clapping.
Aside from introducing the band, Browne and her Rackettes don’t do much conversing with the crowd. They don’t really need to – their hips do most of the talking. When she does speak, however, she’s either getting the pundits to shake or giving a few words to the back stories of her songs.
During an extended instrumental wig-out from the band, Browne and the Rackettes head backstage for a wardrobe swap. With Browne reappearing in a tight lavender dress and the Rackettes in matching black skirts, the group forge on with a treble of impressive covers, including Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang”, a roaring rendition of Salt-n-Pepa’s “Whatta Man” and finally, a faithful tribute to Etta James.
You know a band is on song when they head backstage only to return for an encore no more than twenty second later. “Ok, one more,” announces a breathless Clairy Browne before leaving the crowd with one last taste of the band’s capabilities.
It may only be February, but few other shows this year will top the live virtuosity of Clairy Browne & The Bangin’ Rackettes.
– Paul Bonadio