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BWW Review: BRITTON & THE STING: SUMMER OF LOVE Raises the Roof at 54 Below

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SUMMER OF LOVE Makes You Glad to Be Alive

BWW Review: BRITTON & THE STING: SUMMER OF LOVE Raises the Roof at 54 Below

For a moment tonight, the august, copper-tinged jewel box of Feinstein's 54 Below felt a little like its more famous upstairs neighbor, Studio 54 in its heyday. A place where beautiful people danced and partied and communed with other beautiful people. But the force that fueled the room this evening was not chemical as it was in those halcyon days of the 1970s. The force was something much more elemental. Britton & the Sting debuted their fantastic show SUMMER OF LOVE.

Britton Smith (Be More Chill, Shuffle Along, After Midnight) is a force to be reckoned with. He is a tornado of talent and energy grounded in self-love that expands ever outward to embrace all of his audience. Britton & the Sting is a self-described "funk liberation band." But that label is not broad enough. They are an all-inclusive advocacy collective that encourages every member of its audience to be its highest self. That sounds like touchy-feely nonsense, but in the case of Britton & the Sting, it is one hundred percent gospel truth. Everyone left their show feeling better about themselves and thinking they can achieve whatever they set their mind to. Why? Because Britton told us so.

The songs he's written are exciting and truthful and, in many cases, profoundly wise. There were too many beautiful moments to enumerate them all, but a few highlights include "Holdin' On," a song that could apply to the pandemic, but also is about navigating all the difficult valleys of life. "Escape" is a dream-like reverie about empowerment in finding refuge within. He brought the house down with "Church," which he said was inspired by growing up gay in Texas, something this writer relates to first-hand. I was particularly moved by his fine writing in "Burn." He explained it is about the assurance of a better day after everything we know and have clung to is taken from us. After a year of so much death and division, it is a hopeful vision he paints for our future. In "Mirror" he encourages everyone to have the bravery to be their authentic self. And for me, the high point of the evening was "Dust Off Your Wings," a very poetic lyric about cutting yourself a break. The repeated chant of "Lay Your Burdens Down" in the chorus of the song is more than inspirational, it's aspirational.

There are some amazing musicians who play with Britton Smith. I say "with" because they are in no way back up. Musical director and keyboard player, Josh Dawson was as compelling to watch as Smith himself as he conducted musical flourishes. There was also great work from Eli Menezes, Daniel Winshall, and Josh Roberts on guitar, bass, and drums, respectively. Tiffany Mann and Amber Iman, who sang vocals with, not behind, Smith were both divas in their own right adding spectacular riffs. It is a tight band of virtuoso players who make a glorious sound.

Britton & the Sting is back at 54 Below tomorrow for a repeat performance. I can't recommend them highly enough. It is a rare evening when you leave not only entertained but feeling glad to be alive. That is the effect Britton & the Sting had on me. I want to live in the world as they envision it. They understand that music can, in fact, change the world. And they are making it a better place one song at a time.

Check out Britton & the Sting @BrittonSting on Twitter and download their music on Spotify and all other streaming platforms. To see other wonderful shows at 54 Below, go to 54Below.com.


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