The sold out Parkway Theater hosted Chastity Brown for an evening of stories and music last night. At just under 2 hours, it was a long short set of music— only 13 songs were performed. At the same time, it was an impactful night of music due to Chastity’s stories and experiences. The show exemplified 5 trademark traits of her music and her ability to connect to an audience. Each of the attributes below are unique identifiers that help define her music.
From the moment she took the stage, Brown shared that the evening was going to be treated like a living room show. For the audience in a packed theater, it shrunk down the venue and pulled us all in closer. There was a comfort in watching her perform, knowing we were getting an inside look into her music.
Early in the set and one line into “Colorado,” she paused and stopped the band, asking if anyone knew the words to the song. That vulnerability was authentic and endearing. Chastity Brown has the ability to be content with being herself, being honest, and using her truths to engage.
Appreciation of Literature
When interviewing Chastity for Song-Telling Tuesday, I learned about her appreciation of literature. She spoke of authors and the power of words. Books inspire her music and songwriting. She sees the value in reading and the poetic lessons in literature.
At the Parkway, this focus was highlighted again when Junauda Petrus came out twice to read from her new novel, The Stars and the Blackness Between Them. Both instances were powerful examples of the way words can influence and convey a message. Listening to Chastity’s music, you can hear the way she chooses words to tell a story.
The heart of the evening came from the moments between songs. Chastity shared a funny story about her and her brother cruising around Tennessee. She joked that she put him in the backseat. This introduced a new song called… “Backseat.”
The stories continued throughout the evening as she shared what it felt like to perform with the Minnesota Orchestra. Think Kate Winslet standing in the front of the Titanic with her arms wide open. Toward the end of the show she shared how she’s always made space on stage, in her songs, and in her heart, to feel pain. In learning about “radical self-love,” she has recently decided to let go of that pain. Smiling onstage, Chastity proudly announced that she was having a blast playing for us. It was a transformative moment that the audience supported with applause.
Having experienced Chastity’s live shows before, and speaking with fellow fans in the audience, there is one underlying theme. There are always nuggets of wisdom scattered throughout a set. Sometimes they happen during a story and sometimes it’s when you hear a lyric to a song you thought you knew.
The show at the Parkway once again reminded me of these moments. In speaking about a new song titled “Boston,” Chastity shared that she went off to Sweden to make her new record. It came from a need to challenge herself and throw herself out on a limb. This connected to a story about the first time she led a congregation in music back when she was younger. She didn’t prepare and it didn’t do well. The pastor said to her,
“You can’t lead people where you’ve never been.”
Chastity has always been a champion of the marginalized. Her music comes from personal experiences dealing with marginalization and a present that still notices it. It’s one of her trademarks, and one that speaks to her fans. It’s the reason why the Parkway was sold out with a strong LGBTQ turnout. It’s the reason why we shed our fears and sing along with strangers to a new song like “Bloom.”
There’s a character in her voice that empowers all of us. Her voice comes alive during “Carried Away,” swelling along with the full band. Her voice lifted the audience up to their feet for the encore, “Wake Up.”
Getting to witness Chastity Brown hit on all of these attributes at a hometown show was reimbursement for our own struggles and journeys. We hear our voice in hers. We identify her pain as our own. A true artist has the ability to make any large show feel like a living room. I’m glad last night I was able to spend it in hers.