It’s been a while since Michelle Branch has released a solo album and went out on the road to promote it. Her last full length solo studio album was 2003’s Paper Hotel, and although she briefly made some noise with The Wreckers, we haven’t heard too much from her. She did record new material for Warner Brothers, but for whatever reasons they decided, the label shelved the releases and they never saw the light of day. She recently returned to the spotlight with a brand new studio album on a new label, Verve, entitled Hopeless Romantic which was co-written and co-produced by Branch’s romantic interest Patrick Carney of The Black Keys (who almost plays drums on these live dates). She hit the road in support of it was we were lucky to catch her live in Raleigh, North Carolina at The Lincoln Theatre. It’s a smaller club which is great because it has a more intimate feel and gives everyone in attendance a closer and more personal performance.
Branch appeared at the club on August 2 and the crowd may have leaned a little more to devoted fans who have stuck with her career through the years, but there were quite a few “newbies” that we talked with some just discovering Branch with this new album and quite a few who were seeing her live for the very first time. The setlist was a pretty good mix of old and new songs with Branch coming out of the gate with a two-fer, “Last Night” and “Best You Ever,” from her latest album. You may have thought that it was the excitement and anxious anticipation that caused these songs to go over well, but many in attendance were singing along word for word. That has to be a great welcome back message to Branch from the fans that have been waiting on a new solo album for quite some time now.
Although the setlist leaned heavily on material from her latest album (with nine of the seventeen tracks coming from it) there were plenty of older favorites included such as “All You Wanted” and “Are You Happy Now.” She revisited her time with The Wreckers with “Leave the Pieces” which had a bit of an acoustic, bluegrass feel to it. She also gave us a bit of a reworking on “Game of Love” on which she appeared with Santana. I am not sure who was smiling more throughout the night between the fans and Branch who appeared visibly moved by the large sing-a-longs that each song selection seemed to bring. She did the timeless tradition of leaving the stage and teasing the eternal fan question of “will these be an encore?” before returning for “Goodbye to You” and solo performance of “Everywhere.”
Overall, this was a great show on so many levels! I really hope things work out at Verve for Branch because this talented young lady has been missing from the music scene way too long. Motherhood and a new love interest may have helped fuel the creative fire a bit, but she is one talented artist who is definitely needed in the industry today to help off-set all of this overabundance of disposable “music” that’s being cranked out. Great songs, great musicianship, great vocals and a great time was had by all in attendance. This show was a great reminder of why we fell in love with her in the first place. Let’s hope that we don’t have to wait another fourteen years for a new album and tour from this amazing artist.
Check out these pix from the Michelle Branch show at the Lincoln Theatre in Raleigh, North Carolina on August 2, 2017. Click on each image for a larger view!