Sam Brown, with Michael Rattray
at Waterside Arts Theatre,
Manchester, UK
(28 March 2006)

This was my second time hearing Sam Brown with Michael Rattray as support, and I was not disappointed. If anything, Sam has become more confident than ever, fusing her performance with more comedy and anecdotes that would even make Jo Brown proud -- telling us stories of her father in Tesco, trying not to be recognized while he prances about like a Riverdancer, as well as what Sam admires most about a man's virtues ... and it is more to do with anatomy than personality (guess). Sam also is not averse to speaking what's on her mind, so if you are a bit sensitive about any gigtime expletives, then Sam is not your girl. She most certainly is mine, though!

Opening at the keyboard with what sounded like a bit of a hoarse and croaky voice on her first song, "Learn to Listen," she was quickly replaced with the "thunder lungs" Sam. By the time she was into "Satellite" and "Cradle Me," she was starting to warm up, and by "One Candle," her tribute to being home and feeling 5 years old again with the hearth ablaze, she had the audience mesmerized.

Sam is obviously very family-oriented and idolizes her dad, Joe Brown. She also misses her mum, who died of cancer. The tribute to her mum, "Letting Go," is my personal favourite, and it moves me to a point where I can feel her pain vicariously. It is a personal catharsis that shares her experience of bereavement in a way we all can empathize with: "you were real in a dream, I know you were there to tell me you were alright." We all have experienced loss in our lives or will come to a point when we will, and this song consoles both Sam and her audience. (I wished I had brought my tissues; this girl is SO moving.)

Never being limited to one genre or instrument, Sam then turned to her ukelele and explained how her ukelele came to be. Evidently, George Harrison passed it on to her dad and he passed it on to Sam. There are five songs, some chipper ukelele numbers like "I'll Be Here" and the humorous "Away with the Fairies," but others quite moving including "Kiss of Love," "Over the Moon" and "Void."

Some covers included a more soulful version of James Taylor/Carly Simon's "Mockingbird," as well as an audience request for "You Can Lead a Horse to Water," done a cappella. Ending with the edgy, angry "Show Your Love" with a haunting riff to slide down your spine, Sam came back for an encore on her uke ("Away with the Fairies").

Michael Rattray filled with his sublimely twisted slants on self image, religion and sexual orientation, once again provided a fantastic support with his sidekick Grant, whom he says he has known since Primary 1. Gavin provided tenor harmonies as well as some grand bass and guitar. The funky "Booty," with Sam on vocals, was also featured in Sam's set when Michael and Gavin joined her for this Rattray number. "Booty" is not for the faint-hearted and is as suggestive and blatant a tune as you would expect from Michael, who -- like Sam -- is not averse to speaking his repressed thoughts aloud to his audience.

It was a fantastic gig, and I have no doubt I will be back again to see Sam solo when she is free between Jools Holland commitments.

by Risa Duff
20 May 2006