BWW Review: THE DRINKWATER BROTHERS Blow the Roof Off Birdland
When the Drinkwater Brothers took to the Birdland stage last night there was a moment or two when an audience member might ask themselves if these boys were twins. With their hair styled differently, it was possible that they were brothers separated by maybe a year who looked a lot like each other. Of course, with their almost (but not quite) matching outfits, it was possible that they were identical twins playing a trick on people by just changing enough about themselves to be a little confusing. It would have been easy to spend the next 90 minutes trying to decipher an answer to the quandary, except that the brothers, themselves, gave up the answer, during the course of the evening. The fumble mumble jumble style of communication the two siblings shared, speaking over each other, finishing one another's thoughts and sentences, singing in perfect harmony and perfect unison ... The Drinkwater Brothers are identical twins.
If someone had told me before the show last night what I was going to see, I wouldn't have believed them. While I was watching it, I didn't quite believe it. A day later I am wondering if I believe it, or if I dreamed it.
Here were two young men (maybe 18, maybe 21, it's hard to tell) who can sing 60's folk-rock, 70's country-rock, and bona fide classic rock, then turn around and perform their own original compositions, and a little blues, as well as a show tune or two; and they are able to effectively change their voices to fit each genre in which they are singing. Both men play multiple instruments, and their on-stage presence is just enthralling enough to make you enjoy them without becoming jealous that, in a world filled with untalented people, two brothers should corner the market on accomplishment. It hardly seems fair, but these two fellows simply have it all - they are the ones who get that special something that you're born with, only they have fine-honed their "It" into something one might easily label genius. For two men of such an age to be so shockingly proficient is a rarity, and when it appears it is the public's obligation to observe it, to remember it, to nurture it. As the saying goes, attention must be paid.
Attention was paid last night by an appreciative audience that screamed like they were at a rock concert, because they were at one, given the five-piece band, including electric guitar and violin accompanying on songs like "Hey Joe" and a colossal "Stairway to Heaven". The Drinkwaters, John on guitar and Matt on percussion and piano, were not presenting a cabaret show. This was a show with no through-line, no story, no path. This was a concert of their favorite songs, and though that isn't this writer's favorite kind of show to see in a nightclub, there were no complaints coming from my table because with each different style of music came the wonder of a new level of conversation from the twins. Switching off on lead vocals vs harmonies, Matt and John demonstrated powerful high notes and velvety soft singing as they paid tribute to an era they shouldn't even know with songs like "Me and Bobby McGee" and "Rocky Raccoon", and always with their impeccable harmonies. When not showcasing their knowledge of rock and roll history, John and Matt put their songwriting skills on display with four songs from their debut cd "Do Not Feed The Birds".
Assisted on stage by a spectacular band featuring Frank Cannizaro (Drums), Jonathan Russell (Violin), Andrew Brett (Bass) and Douglas Brett (Piano), The Drinkwater Brothers owned up to a private part of their lives: they do theater, too. To back up the statement, one at a time the twins took center stage to show that singing rock and roll doesn't mean you can't sing a show tune. John Drinkwater did something I have dreamed of seeing all my adult life: he stood perfectly still and, with a smile on his face, sang the legendary Sondheim song "Losing My Mind" ... and it worked. He didn't fall prey to the temptation to oversing or overact the simple musical story - he just sang it and let the crowd see what was in his heart. It was transcendent. For his musical theater offering, Matt chose his generations Sondheim, Jason Robert Brown, and gave out with "If I Didn't Believe", serving a performance worthy of the likes of Liza Minnelli, for few are better than Liza with a Z at delivering a musical monologue ... but Matt Drinkwater can do it and should do it as often as he can get in front of a mic. One hopes these gentlemen spend a lot of time singing show tunes, either on Broadway or in clubs.
A particular highlight of the evening was the invitation to have Katie Dixon join them on the stage and she, in all of her Veronica Lake, Jessica Rabbit, Rita Hayworth glory joined the men on the sexiest, steamiest, naughtiest version of "Fever" ever to be sung. Were this presented in the era that Ms. Dixon was representing, the Hays Production Code would have Shut. Them. Down.
And we LOVED it.
If there were anything about this night that could have been changed, it would be the length. At 90 minutes a nightclub act is running long, and audiences begin to fidget. Fortunately for The Drinkwaters, every performance they offered up last night was so magnificent that members of the audience were too transfixed to worry about the time, the restroom, or paying the check. When you have that kind of power over an audience, you're on to something.
The Drinkwater Brothers are definitely on to something.
Photos by Jackson Gillies and Kevin Alvey
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