For the second and final day of Pride Festival at Los Angeles’ West Hollywood Park, the site is notably more heaving and far, far messier as party-goers began a day of celebration extremely early. At 8 a.m. Sunday morning (June 11), L.A.’s LGBTQ community forewent the tradition of an annual pride ‘parade’ to take to the streets in a more directly purposeful way via a newly titled Resist March. With a human rights focus including stances on healthcare and immigration, it attracted tens of thousands up until lunchtime, on a route that took peaceful protestors from Hollywood and Highland right through to WeHo.
So by the time opener Brooke Candy takes to the stage at West Hollywood Park with her self-described “fag mob,” the crowds are suitably revelrous, particularly as she brings out surprise guest Tommy Lee and has him spanked by a drag queen holding a blow-up Donald Trump doll. Candy ensured that by the time headliner and ’90s R&B darling Brandy came out, the site was at the busiest and most tantalized that it had been all weekend.
“Make some noise!” instructs the 38-year-old Brandy; multi-million selling singer and actress, who first emerged on our screens two decades ago in the sitcom Moesha. In a flowing dress with long dreads, she doesn’t look to have aged an hour since then. It’s a relief to see her up there in full unwavering confidence. Only 10 days earlier, Brandy collapsed on Delta flight to New York from her base of L.A., with her brother Ray J claiming it was due to exhaustion. There are no signs of fatigue or stress though in front of this audience.
Launching into “What About Us” from 2002’s critically acclaimed Full Moon album, she impresses with still jaw-dropping vocals while seamlessly running through relentless vocal lines during a 45-minute breathless and hits-packed set. It’s the old school jams such as “Best Friend,” “I Wanna Be Down,” “Sittin’ Up In My Room” and the Mase collaboration “Top Of The World” that have fans howling with joy and Brandy smiling from ear to ear. She works the crowd by waltzing up and down the stage, aided by only a live drummer and keyboardist. [Sadly, Mase couldn’t make it.]
“I wish everybody could se what I’m seeing right now,” she says, taking a well-earned breather between her cavalcade of throwback classics. “Gonna fix my clothes! We LA Pride, right?” It’s tracks such as “Who Is She 2 U?” (arguably one of producer Timbaland’s best ever efforts) that remind you that on Brandy’s 2004 album Afrodesiac — which also featured the Kanye West collaboration “Talk About Our Love” — she was once the torchbearer carrying Aaliyah’s legacy of progressive alternative R&B.
Beyond the more experimental material, however, it’s her performance of the slow jam “Almost Doesn’t Count” that has happy couples swooning lovingly. When she plays “Wildest Dreams” — a more recent number from her 2012 album Two Eleven — she admits, “I love this song. I’m mad it wasn’t a hit, but we’re gonna do it anyway.” The crowd here know every single word, despite the song’s lack of commercial success. Acceptance, welcoming and fierce loyalty is clearly in the air here at LA Pride.
After a considerable break in songs, Brandy re-enters humbled before the swelling crowd. “You don’t know how good it feels when you guys sing along,” she says. “Especially when the songs are 20 years-old! It’s good you know everything — maybe not word for word, but moments. That’s what matters.” Taking selfies with waiting fans as soon as she came offstage, it’s Brandy who’s providing a special moment for her beautiful LGBTQ brothers and sisters this evening.
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