Friday night could not have been more perfect for live music. It was the 1st of July and the weather was perfect. Summer had officially started and downtown Franklin was buzzing. Walking up to Gray’s On Main, the pharmacy turned restaurant/music venue, all I could hear were people talking about the Mandy Cook and the Bandies show there later that evening. I am glad I had a reserved seat because the place was packed. Downstairs is a cute little restaurant where you can tell it used to be a pharmacy. Upstairs, past the kitchen, is where the magic happens. There is a giant stage up high enough so everyone can see no matter where your seats are.
Usually I see Mandy perform as a solo act at Hotel Indigo in downtown Nashville, but this performance was such a treat. She had her full band with her (Junior Padilla on drums, Brodie Hutchins on guitar, James Westfall on keys, and Anthony Sallee on bass) and they filled in her songs so nicely. They played the majority of her album “See” (which you can get on itunes) as well as a few well selected covers. If you’d like a review of her album check out my blog post about her CD release party back in September.
There are a few songs that stood out to me the most. One of them was her acoustic version of “Space Oddity” by the incomparable David Bowie. It was raw and emotional and gave everyone goosebumps. The band rocked it with “Crazy” by Gnarles Barkley, and again with “What’s Love Got To Do With It” by Tina Turner. My favorite performance of the night was her song “Mississippi Voodo.” I’ve heard her perform that dozens of times but never like this. The tempo was brought down and became more bluesy. She let James start the song off on keys and then added a guitar solo so Brodie could let loose. The whole band looked like they were having a blast playing that song. They all fed off each other nicely.
In between songs Mandy let her inner nerd out unapologetically and it was endearing as hell. It’s great when a musician can show who they really are on stage. One of the most moving songs of the evening is an unreleased song called “And Then There’s Us” which she dedicated to all of our veterans. She wrote this song after the Paris attacks a few months ago. It is a song that is especially pertinent in our social/political climate today. People were brought to tears, myself included.
After bringing the mood down a bit with that song she went for something completely different with another brand new unreleased song called “I’ll Do Me.” It’s a great upbeat song about parting ways with someone you once had a relationship with. Despite the subject matter it is still groovy and makes you want to dance. The last song that she sang with the full band was “Lauren.” Anthony started off with a dominant bass line and then the rest of the band filled in. Definitely a fun song.
She ended the show by putting the guitar down and singing “I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Bonnie Raitt with only Brodie accompanying her on guitar. It was refreshing to see her perform without the guitar. It was vulnerable and left the audience breathless.
I have seen many Mandy Cook performances but this was by far my favorite. The set list was designed perfectly and it was paired with a great and welcoming venue. Gray’s on Main does a fantastic job at showcasing the artists that play there. The sound is great and the ambiance captures the feeling you want when seeing a great live show.