Jennifer Nettles BROADWAY UNDER GUI at Town Hall by Guest Critics Jennifer Leigh Houston
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Jennifer Nettles live from City Hall
BROADWAY UNDER GUI
Wednesday, December 15, 2021
Jennifer nettles SLED to his extravaganza of a night at Town Hall BROADWAY UNDER GUI. And I think Jennifer would forgive the pun since she so adorably and affectionately called her all-female string quartet “Belles with Bows” and her all-male brass section “Beaux with Bells”. And boy, oh boy, might these beautiful and beautiful ones blow and bow.
For those of us who only thought we knew Jennifer Nettles from her popular country music playlist (where the hell was I? Still in the early 2000s I guess), we were thrilled, dazzled and blown away. It was a delightful version of a Christmas show, with country / soul / gospel songs that expressed the magic of the season without for the most part being specific to Christmas.
In her sheer, sparkly pantsuit, Jennifer was a vision of Christmas wonders. She kicked off the show with “Go Tell It On The Mountain,” amplified by six members of the Broadway Inspirational Voices (BIV) gospel choir and the other twelve members of her band. She managed to make our hearts and blood beat with this catchy gospel arrangement (which is also the debut of her 2016 Christmas album “To Celebrate Christmas”). Ms. Nettles took things down a bit with a country / pop version of “Do You Hear What I Hear?” Her bright, rising voice brought tears to my eyes. Jennifer is such a cheerful performer that it’s impossible to stand still.
After opening the show with music from her Christmas album, Jennifer introduced the audience to her new album, released in June, “Always Like New”. The album is a series of tunes from Broadway shows reimagined in its country / gospel style; these would include most of the songs sung that evening. She described the album as “one of the most rewarding albums I have ever made”.
Throughout the night, Jennifer mixed styles with ease and ferocity. We went from outright gospel with his arrangement of “Oh What A Beautiful Morning” (Oklahoma) at his feet and hands, to his famous country-pop belt with an absolutely stunning version of “It All Fades Away” ( The Bridges of Madison County) in which her bassist / singer Annie Clements joined her on vocals to make sure there wouldn’t be a dry eye in the house, then melted us down with her dreamy version of ” Almost Like Being in Love “(Brigadoon).
Nettles’ heartfelt and heartwarming R&B rendition of Kenny Loggins’ “Celebrate Me Home” gave me a new appreciation for the 1977 radio hit, but the best part of the night for this reviewer was the unexpected gems, like “Wouldn ‘ t It Be Loverly? ” (My Fair Lady) made with two acoustic guitars, strings and a double bass. There’s something funny about the phrase “abso-bloomin’-lutely” trailed with a South American accent, but the country arrangement of Lerner and Loewe’s song works weirdly. Eliza Doolittle’s desire to escape economic hardship fits as naturally into the heart of the United States as it does anywhere else.
Other jaw-dropping moments of the night included “Sit Down You’re Rockin ‘the Boat” (Guys & Dolls) and “The Little Drummer Boy”, again with Annie Clements singing her glorious harmonies. “Sit Down You’re Rockin ‘the Boat” was an interpretation of Southern Blues and Baptist gospel, and with strong support from the BIV choir, Jennifer completely demolished the house. I mean TORE!
Other delicacies were a bluegrass version of “There’s a Sucker Born Every Minute” (Barnum) and “Wait for It” (Hamilton), “Anyone Can Whistle” (a beautiful tribute to Sondheim). And of course, it wouldn’t be fair to leave her country fans out, so towards the end of the show, she pulled out her guitar and performed two of her band’s most beloved songs, Sugarland: “Want To” and ” Little girl “.
Just when we thought we had seen all that Jennifer had to offer, she put us back in the Christmas spirit with a classic that only the most powerful can achieve, “O Holy Night” with a little Leonard Choen’s mashup ” Alleluia.” I still have chills.
After the O Holy Night / Hallelujah number bowed, the band rocked into Sugarland’s biggest hit “Something More” and the crowd went wild and sang, me included. It was the grand finale that triggered a long, well-deserved standing ovation.
The town hall show was the penultimate engagement of a mini-tour that marked Jennifer’s first time on the road since before the pandemic. The winter break celebrates light and warmth amid darkness and cold, and Jennifer and the masked audience clearly felt the special intensity of this theme amid the rise of the new variant.
“We’re tired,” Jennifer admitted, reflecting on the past two years and the uncertain times ahead. “We are tired, but we are resilient.” And then, capturing the spirit of the season as much as any note she’s sung, she added, “And we’re hopeful.”
Visit the Town Hall website HERE to find great concerts and shows.
HERE is the site of Jennifer Nettles.
Jennifer Houston is a singer-songwriter specializing (nowadays) in country and rockabilly music, although she began singing show tunes in musicals like CHICAGO, ANYTHING GOES, and SMOKY JOE’S CAFE. Her work as a singer-songwriter was put to good use when she became a political songwriter creating online content for NOW THIS during the previous White House administration. When not focused on her music, Jennifer is a pastry chef with a popular internet program called JEN HOUSTON’S SHUT YOUR CAKE HOLE, where she creates cakes in front of the camera to help and inspire other pastry chefs. Jennifer is an actress who appears in Allan Piper film E VIL SUBLET, a comedy horror film that will premiere in 2020 with legendary TV actress Sally Struthers. Jennifer wrote and performed “Let It Begin” for the Allan Piper Marriage Equality Documentary MARRIED AND COUNTING and is the proud Mama to Buddy and late Miu cat, who everyone loved and misses a lot. Jennifer Houston has a YouTube channel HERE and can be found on Instagram: jensshutyercakehole and TikTok: jenhouston2