Jake’s Take’s Concert Reviews: Branden + James at 54 Below

Branden James + James Clark
Branden + James’ Branden James and James Clark visited Feinstein’s/54 Below (Photo courtesy of Branden + James)

By: Jacob Elyachar, jakes-take.com

Musical aficionados gathered at New York City’s Feinstein’s 54 Below to see Branden + James (tenor Branden James and his husband, cellist James Clark) perform. Individually, both men have impeccable accomplishments.  Branden was a finalist on America’s Got Talent: Season Eight and worked with the 12 Tenors.  Meanwhile, James accompanied Olivia Newton-John, Bernadette Peters, and Idina Menzel.   Together, they wowed audiences worldwide and shared the stage with entertainment industry icons such as Rita Moreno, Sally Struthers, and Loretta Devine.

On Friday, March 15, Branden + James returned to the Feinstein’s 54 Below for the second time. The duo previously performed at the “Carnegie Hall of Broadway,” as they lovingly described it, in 2018.  Feinstein’s 54Below also holds a special place for Branden + James as the venue was the spot of their first date.

The duo performed their show, The Broadway Covers Project. The Broadway Covers Project was Branden + James’ opportunity to showcase their range as performers and musicians.  Composer David Hancock Turner brilliantly accompanied the duo through a vast majority of the evening except for the haunting “She Used to Be Mine,” where Branden performed the Sara Bareilles-penned tune on the piano.

The greatest strength that is in Branden + James’ arsenal is their innate ability to be storytellers. The 54 Below audience was transported into every musical that they sang. From the Paris Opera House in the 1880s (The Phantom of the Opera) to Joe’s Diner in the southern United States (Waitress), the duo captivated the audience with each song that they performed.  While James showcased his flawless arranging skills and beautiful cello playing, Branden’s powerful voice demonstrated why he would be the perfect candidate to portray Erik and Jean Valjean.

Branden + James’ set highlights included “’Til I Hear You Sing,” the Phantom of the Opera medley, and the haunting “She Used to Be Mine.” I also loved “As If We Never Said Goodbye,” which I imagined Branden returning home to America’s Got Talent for the second season of Champions, but with James by his side.  Another highlight was “Defying Gravity,” which Branden perfectly demonstrated why male vocalists should not be afraid and cover this anthem. (Your move, Adam Lambert, Andrew de Leon, Brian Justin Crum, Chris Mann, Clay Aiken, David Archuleta, Forte, Frankie Grande, Garrett Clayton, Hugh Jackman, Jeremy Jordan, Jordan Smith, Joshua Ledet, and Peter Hollens!)

Final thoughts and grade: Branden + James’ The Broadway Covers Project is a love letter to several generations of musical theatre that would captivate and entertain audiences around the world. I cannot wait to see what they do next and I hope that Feinstein’s 54 Below has them back again real soon. A

For more information about Branden + James, visit their website.  You can also connect with them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, & YouTube.   

Branden + James’ set list: West Side Story medley (“Tonight”/”I Feel Pretty (Instrumental)”/”Maria”/”Somewhere”), “As If We Never Said Goodbye” (Sunset Boulevard), “I Dreamed A Dream” (instrumental)/”Bring Him Home” (Les Miserables), “’Til I Hear You Sing” (Love Never Dies), “She Used to Be Mine” (Waitress), “Every Day A Little Death” (A Little Night Music)/”Being Alive” (Company), “The Winner Takes It All” (Mamma Mia!), Phantom of the Opera medley (“The Phantom of the Opera”/”Think of Me”/”Angel of Music” (instrumental)/”All I Ask of You”/”Masquerade” (instrumental)), “What You Call a Dream” (Diamonds), “Defying Gravity” (Wicked), & “Unchained Melody” (Ghost the Musical).

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Copyright 2020 Jacob Elyachar