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Brooke's brave 'Circus' act

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Brooke's brave 'Circus' act

Jonatha Brooke bares her vulnerabilities in her songs.

In concert, Jonatha Brooke dresses like she's ready to tame a tiger.

With her drum majorette's top, black fishnets and knee-high leather boots, she's missing only the whip to complete the Barnum & Bailey effect.

She provides that with the snap of her songs.

Brooke opened both segments of her long show at The Anspacher Theater at The Public Theater - she's there through Sunday - with songs that view life as an emotional circus, a place of magic and danger.

The folk-rock singer highlighted the sense of peril with her voice. High in pitch and pretty in tone, Brooke excels at lofty notes that break into faint breaths.

Think: Sarah McLachlan gone arty. Such sensitive elements have earned her a strong cult audience.

The shows support Brooke's new album, "Back in the Circus." It's her fifth, and by far, best work.

Her success is impressive, considering she has released most of her albums on her own Bad Dog Records.

Live, Brooke had four musicians backing her, though they largely kept the support spare. The focus always landed on Brooke's careful lyrics and delicate delivery.

Brooke's songs often paint lovers at cross purposes. But she writes from the specific point of view of a woman of a certain age (40) who knows she can't have it all.

In the song "Sally," Brooke compares her life to a friend who had children instead of extending her career. Brooke took the opposite path.

While many female singers her age cover their vulnerabilities in biting humor (like Amy Rigby or Aimee Mann), Brooke sings in utter earnest.

It takes a certain bravery to do that - perhaps enough to face down a beast.


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