One of the highlights of my 2011 Blues Music Award experience in Memphis was seeing Eden Brent and The Bo-Keys perform at BB King's Blues Club in Memphis. I saw Brent perform two songs at the BMAs the year prior but this was my first time really seeing her live, doing something a full set with a backing band (including producer, songwriter, guitarist Colin Linden).
I sat quietly in the darkened club and watched her work the room before her set, greeting fans and friends, laughing and hugging. I expected her to open with something uptempo like "Ain't Got No Troubles" or "Let's Boogie-Woogie" but instead she led off with "Leave Me Alone."
"Leave Me Alone" is an emotional, heartbreaking ballad from her fabulous Ain't Got No Troubles album. It's almost hard to listen to a song like this -- one so personal -- without wanting to look away and that's when you're listening to the record in the privacy of your own company. Brent is so generous, vulnerable, and completely invested in that vocal. I can't fathom performing a song like that night after night and I really can't get my head around starting a show there if I had the guts to do it at all. I'd need to warm up to something like that and probably immolate myself with an awful lot of whiskey.
What was perhaps most amazing about this performance was the way she was able to smile through the pain as she sang but without cheating the song of its emotional impact. I don't know how she did it then and I don't know how she did it for this performance, either.