- Article by: Brittany Joy Cooper, Photos by: Brittany Joy Cooper
- Posted: 05/15/2011
You can’t think of Brett Dennen without envisioning his caricature-like red hair and glasses, which aren’t exactly hipster but definitely make a statement.
And that’s exactly how Dennen comes across live. He doesn’t don the hipster garb or play the rocker or even sport the I-tried-to-look-like-I-didn’t-try grunge. Barefoot in jeans and a black T-shirt, the 31-year-old took the stage at the Cannery Ballroom Saturday, May 14, and spoke volumes without ever really speaking at all.
Dennen jumped right in with “Surprise, Surprise,” the first track from his April 2011 Dualtone release, Loverboy. He and his four-piece band drew in the standing audience with their hip-swaying pop that edged sometimes on Hawaiian and other times on salsa.
Dennen himself is a blast. He’s groovy in his movement—throwing his arms up and shaking his hips like a wannabe hula girl. Whenever the audience screamed out his name, he just smiled and strummed his way into the next song. No rehearsed transitions or detailed explanations of his music—just a guy without shoes plucking heartstrings as quickly as he can pluck his guitar.
Throughout the night, Dennen spoke musical messages in his usual acute yet hopeful tone, painting cultural paradoxes with lyrics like, “Preachers on the podium speakin’ to saints / Paupers on the sidewalk beggin’ for change” from “Ain’t No Reason.”
Just a month off an album release, Dennen alluded to the record only once, and indirectly at that, encouraging fans to buy it since he was donating all the profits to Invisible Children. He ended the night with “Make You Crazy,” which had the audience screaming on the first chord. With that, he smiled without a word and exited the stage.
But the crowd wasn’t satisfied yet. An encore plea of stomps punctuated by an incessant communal shout of “Brett, Brett, Brett,” eventually pulled Dennen back to the mic. After a moment of tuning and a simple “OK” to the sound guy, he launched into lulling, acoustic versions of “Frozen In Slow Motion” and “Ain’t No Reason” like a gimmick-free poet.
Then the night took a turn toward the soulful as the band reclaimined the stage. Dennen transitioned into a slightly slower Sly and the Family Stone-type funk groove, letting his voice dance at the top of the register while the audience danced along to “Queen of the Westside.”
Though Dennen eventually returned to his normal pitch, the show ended on a high note with “Blessed,” Dennen trailing off to the sound of the audience singing “Blessed is this life / And I'm gonna celebrate being alive.”
Brett Dennen - Ain't No Reason