Published On: Tue, Apr 2nd, 2019

Andy Brown serenades Manila with intimate acoustic set

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Published 7:00 PM, April 02, 2019

Updated 7:00 PM, April 02, 2019

ANDY BROWN. The singer treats his Filipino fans to an acoustic night performance. All photos by Stephen Lavoie/Rappler

ANDY BROWN. The singer treats his Filipino fans to an acoustic night performance. All photos by Stephen Lavoie/Rappler

There’s nothing like being on the edge of death to appreciate life. And this performer has had the experience twice.

Andy Brown hails from Fazakerley, England where he began his music career at the Academy of Contemporary Music. There, he met his bandmates to a group called “The Groves.” At just 19 years old, doctors discovered that he had a brain tumor which was growing and needed to be removed.

Dr. Lawson was the skilled surgeon that saved Brown’s life, and in his honor, the band renamed themselves “Lawson.” In terms of musical style, think One Direction. Lawson has a similar quartet boy-band pop flavor gaining modest popularity throughout the world with hit songs here in the Philippines and other parts of Asia.

There were risks to the surgery with a chance that he would lose his sight or get severe facial paralysis which didn’t happen – but he did walk away with permanent hearing loss in his right ear, a devastating blow for a musician. Andy persevered and has adjusted with his left side overcompensating for the loss, now living his life in a monotone world.

Again in 2014, when someone spiked his drink at a bar in London, he woke up the next morning not remembering anything from the night before. With what felt like a strong hangover that would not subside, he was losing weight and could hardly get out of bed. After a couple of weeks, he went to the hospital to find out that his liver was failing, most likely from an allergic reaction to the drug in the drink. He was placed on a transplant waiting list, a procedure where not all patients survive.

While waiting for a donor he was given a course of steroid treatments and his body responded well so he fully recovered without the surgery.

You would think after those combined experiences most folks would be angry or spiteful, but it’s quite the opposite with Andy. With a fresh outlook on life, it was at this point he embarked on a solo career.

It’s reflected in his behavior on-stage and off. He’s friendly with everyone regardless if it’s a VIP, the saleswomen at the pizza counter, or the local security staff. Approachable, thoughtful, patient, and understanding, he’s one of those people who is just simple good folks.

At one of the media events of which he made numerous appearances over the 3 days prior to the concert itself, I asked the singer/songwriter if there was one song that he didn’t write but would like to take the credit for? “Probably would be something on The Greatest Showman, probably ‘Rewrite the Stars,’ if I could have written any song in the last couple of years it would have been that one.”

Not a surprising answer, considering that last year he recorded his take on the entire soundtrack with a hint of a country music twang.

When asked who he would like to collaborate with, especially with his recent foray into the country music genre with Cedarmont, his debut solo crossover album. He responded, “I love all music classes really but as country artists go, Hunter Hayes, I really like, Thomas Rhett I really like or the Shires.” he continued, “In the pop world I really like 1975, LANY, Ed Sheeran and James Bay also as far as female country artists go it would be Kacey Musgraves.”

He performed with compassion and comforting ease as part of his solo tour here in Manila before heading off to Dubai. It’s not Andy’s first visit to the Philippines, as the lead vocalist for Lawson he has been here a couple of times over the years. It didn’t matter that the venue was far from sold out – I’m certain that he would perform in the same fashion for 500 attendees or 5000. The unobtrusive crowd and the scaled-down size of the dome lent itself to an intimate feel that you don’t often experience.

The front act for the evening was a 15-year-old up and comer named Steph Martell. In her first concert fronting for an international artist, she confidently performed along with her producer Nick Lazaro on guitar. A Lenka cover and three original songs had the attentive crowd swaying to the sound with smiles on their faces.

Keep an eye out for this artist, industry professionals have taken notice of the quality in her vocal tone and songwriting skills beyond her years.

Steph Marttel

Steph Marttel

The stage set up was bare bones with minimal lighting and local studio musicians on keys, guitar, and beatbox who performed outstandingly without the experience of touring with Andy. The sound quality was decent for this venue with every person in attendance a serious fan – they were ecstatic regardless of the physical setup. There was a line around the SM North Skydome early in the afternoon as folks waited to jockey for position up front as soon as the doors opened.

They sang along with many of the songs, as you’d expect from the Filipino crowd but during the last song, they sounded more like a professional chorus and you could see Andy was touched when everyone was singing word for word in perfect harmony.

As you would expect, his music is uplifting with an alluring vocal quality that is worth a listen.

Even if you’re not a fan, it’s refreshing to know that there is an artist out there who has reached a level of fame but still keeps his feet on the ground, appreciates life and always sees the glass half full. –

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