Suze Lanier-Bramlett and her (almost) All-Girl Swamp Cabaret Band rocked the classy, candlelit M Bar Hollywood in L.A. on Saturday night, Feb. 23 at a “Pre-Academy Award bash” hosted by the sexy songstress/actress. It was a “Girls Night Out” where men were welcome too.
Dinner was booked for 7:00 pm. Unfortunately, thanks to fun on the freeway and a near NASCAR-like accident, your generally reclusive writer and his sparkling associate Mary Sparks arrived barely in time for the start of the show. Bramlett was backed, of course, by the Swamp Cabaret Band which included: Denise Fraser (drums), LuAnn Landau (bass and backing vocals); Alicia (Scorch Sister) Morgan (keys and backing vocals) and Mr. Hank Barrio (guitar and backing vocals).
By now regular readers know that this was more than merely another live gig which your secluded scribe often attends. It was, in truth, one of a so far select few shows your near perpetually penned-up penman has ever attended. (In fact, it would turn out to be one of the highlights of the past several months.)
The show opened with the prerequisite and totally apropos intro “Swamp Cabaret” which was co-written with (jokingly) self-confessed “cosmetologist” Barrio. Ya gotta wonder if it’s really cool being a guy in an otherwise all-girl group or a pain in the @ss. No matter, he and the other members played their parts well.
All the expected album offerings were included: the tributary tune “If Roy Rogers Was My Daddy”, the humorous albeit honest “You Don’t Even Know My Name” and the supposed autobiographical “On The Way To Woodstock”. It’s a vocal visit to an era where young folks grabbed their grass and went off to groove on the greats—Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, The Who and Joe Cocker—perform live. It’s a fun flashback from a sexy siren who your rockin’ reviewer still feels doesn’t look old enough to really recall.
Your crusty chronicler has the same issue with her adaptation of “B Moviestar”. Here on this Burt Bacharach-like track, Lanier-Bramlett rewrites the lyrics to supposedly reflect her resume as an actress. In a slightly self-deprecating ditty she runs through a lyrical list of credits including appearing on Broadway, parts in popular TV shows such as "Happy Days", "Barnaby Jones", "Three's Company", "Alice", "Phyllis" and "Welcome Back Kotter".
Sorry. No lady as lively as Lanier-Bramlett could be old enough to have been on some of those programs. (Perhaps she was including her credits as a child actress? Her most recent role, by the way, will be as portraying herself in David Rountree's upcoming horror film Cut!)
Also included in the show was the “Critic’s Choice” from her debut disc “Something To Hold On To” not because it’s her best song but because she explores the ragtime genre here. (Well, that and your rather randy reviewer still enjoys a gal who has a little something to hold on to too!) She also performs another of her solo compositions the musical motherly-inspired "Love With Your Head", the mid-tempo “Soup Kitchen” about the homeless and “Friends Forever” which she dedicated to her loyal listeners.
This particular performance included a few “firsts” as Lanier-Bramlett dusted off a forgotten, never performed live songs including a tuneful tip of her hat to her grandparents titled “Mixed Blood”. She brought out some new numbers as well including the revelatory “Bad Girl”, a soft, smoky night club ballad “Handle With Care” and an effective, basic blues tune, “Thinking Of You”, which seemed to make the audience feel it.
While these impression-piece reviews focus mainly on highlights, what was most significant and revealing here was how Lanier-Bramlett’s between bits banter drew the audience into her life. She sewed the CD tracks together as she shared with her broad audience (which even included folks from her film work). Her mini-monologues and performances were much like a musical in-depth interview.
With each song she seems to serve up a slice of life as we peer into her past and peek into her personal life. Additionally, she performed her most recent music video piece “Watch What You Ask For” and a baton-twirling encore singing her vivacious version of Randy Newman’s “Leave Your Hat On”. In the end, perhaps one audience member Lorre Sloan Brewer said it best when she commented: “it was such a pleasure to see (Suze) shine” and that Suze “held our hearts in (her) hands”.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that's the bottom line.