There’s a lot to know about V.V. Brown besides the fact that the London singer-songwriter released her debut album, Traveling Like the Light, in the states earlier this month. Her real name is Vanessa, she’s a part-time model, she has her own vintage clothing store, and she’s writing a graphic novel. V.V. also famously wrote some of the songs off Traveling — including hit single “Crying Blood” — on a one-string guitar. Oh, and she’s stunningly beautiful.
And yet most Americans probably know very little about her. Which is a shame. While the sudden rise of V.V.’s profile in the U.K. may mimic the ecstatic trajectory of current and one-time “it girls” Kate Nash and Lily Allen, her music is far more eccentric. V.V.’s tunes draw on elements of funk, soul, reggae, hip-hop — even punk and rockabilly — and nearly everything in between.
Her show last night at the Bowery Ballroom in Lower Manhattan — her first headlining gig in the U.S. — was a winning testament to an artist with tastes as eclectic as her resume. It was also, for the most part, a rollicking good time.
Standing nearly six feet tall in her bare feet and wearing a feathered Mardi Gras mask with a long white dress and gold sash, V.V. was quite the spectacle on stage. But she also commanded it. “Are you ready to have a party!” she screamed at her fans, before taking her six-piece band through “Bottles” — a sultry, swinging jam that somehow managed to suggest an early Bond film and “99 Bottles of Beer” all at once. Even better were the breakup songs: the punky soul of “Game Over” and the doo-wop-inflected “Leave,” which she dedicated to her ex-boyfriend (a “complete fucking asshole!”).
V.V.’s attempts at balladry, “I Love You” and “Traveling Like the Light,” sucked some of the energy from the room. But V.V. knew just what to do to get it back: Break out a cover of Drake’s “Best I Ever Had” and follow it up with an ode to African music featuring a hard-hitting horn riff plucked straight from a Fela Kuti record. Every time the music peaked, V.V. rose to her tippy toes to smack the floor tom or cymbal near her feet.
By the time V.V. and her band transformed “Crying Blood” into a dub-inspired romp near the evening’s end, the young singer form Northampton, England had the crowd firmly on her side. “You guys are like my family!” she gushed. Nah, more like her best friends.
2. “Game Over”
5. “Back in Time”
6. “I Love You”
7. “All I’ve Ever Wanted” (Drake cover)
8. “Fela Kuti”
9. “Traveling Like the Light”
11. “Crying Blood”
12. “Shark in the Water”
13. “Quick Fix”