When last we left Michelle Branch, she had released her platinum selling solo album Hotel Paper in 2003. What followed was a slow fade from mainstream attention and an extended stay in record label purgatory. While she worked on some collaborations and ventured into Country territory with a side project dubbed the Wreckers, a new solo album did not materialize. Branch had submitted two full albums to her label, Warner Bros. Records, but both efforts were passed over and shelved, leaving the artist in musical limbo. Now, 14 years later Michelle Branch is back on a new label, Verve, and with a new album, Hopeless Romantic. The album was co-written and co-produced with Black Keys drummer and romantic partner Patrick Carney. Hopeless Romantic adds to the pop-rock canvas of her earlier releases and stirs in a bit of psych-rock, R&B, and some enchanting synth-laden soundscapes. The album is not so much a return to form as an elevation of form. Having released Hopeless Romantic earlier this year, Michelle Branch has hit the road to take the music directly to the masses. The North American headlining summer tour kicked off in Chicago at the beginning of July, and recently stopped at the Lincoln Theatre in Raleigh NC, where we caught the show.
The Wednesday night Raleigh crowd consisted of a solid mix of dedicated old-school fans mixed with a smattering of eager new fans introduced to the music of Michelle Branch through Hopeless Romantic. Regardless of age, background, or length of fandom, the crowd was united in excitement and anticipation as Michelle Branch took the stage. Accompanied by her band, including Patrick Carney behind the drum kit, Branch started right into new material, with “Last Night” and “Best You Ever” from Hopeless Romantic, before reaching back to 2001’s The Spirit Room for “You Get Me.” The set that followed was a satisfying mosaic of new material, classic tracks, and a new spin on some old favorites. Other early set highlights included “All You Wanted,” “Heartbreak Now,” before shifting gears with a bluegrass-tinged “Leave The Pieces” from the Wreckers and a fresh take on her collaboration with Santana, the Grammy winning “The Game of Love.” The audience was in full on dance party from the start. With each new song, the cheering and support got louder and stronger, causing Michelle to break out in a big smile that was equal parts warm and infectious… It was obvious that the affection between the crowd and artist was mutual. As the show wore on, it was apparent that Branch’s music and songwriting were not the only things that matured over the last 14 years, her voice was as strong as ever. The evening wound down with “Fault Line,” and “Living In A Lie,” before closing out the main set with “Are You Happy Now?” As the band left the stage, the joyous crowd answered the last song with a resounding “Yes!” The show ended with a two song encore of “Goodbye To You,” followed by a solo rendition of “Everywhere.”
The evening felt less like nostalgia and more like getting reacquainted with an old friend. At one point between songs, Branch paused and addressed the audience regarding her long break between albums, promising fans that they would not have to wait another 14 years for new music. Her announcement was met with the loudest applause of the night.
Opening the show earlier in the evening fell to Brooklyn-based indie-rockers Haerts. The band, formed by Nini Fabi and Benjamin Gebert, played a well-received set of glimmering emotional synth-pop underpinned by dreamy guitar, soothing melodies, and catchy choruses
Photos of Michelle Branch + Haerts @ The Lincoln Theatre – August 2nd 2017