Branden & James: The Lady Gaga Songbook at The Palm

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For their fifth Anniversary season, Puerto Vallarta favorites Branden & James return to our stage. This is a unique pairing of two men, one arising from a pop/rock background and the other as a trained classical musician who plays his choice – the cello.
Our adored duo is Californian Branden James, a talented pianist with a delightful tenor voice and Aussie James Clark, a cellist, pianist and background singer. James on his cello combines with Branden’s piano and their emotionally powerful vocals. A song may start with lilting classical cello strings and piano flurries, then vocals arise leading to the tune moving from a classical piece into a pop rendition retaining the classical background. The continuous musical constructions are their unique sound with all arrangements by James.
Tonight, they spotlight one of the best-selling musical artists of all time, Lady Gaga, whose material has ranged from pop, dance, country, jazz to film soundtracks. She is an accomplished composer. She transformed her image from a meat-covered dress character to an Oscar-winning singer and composer of “Shallow” from the movie “A Star Is Born”. She is versatile, electrifying and owns a large songbook.
Initiating the evening of music and love was “Million Reasons”, one of the very best songs from her works. “I’ve got a hundred million reasons to walk away. But, baby, I just need one good one to stay.” Branden can belt out a tune and not in a bad, harsh way, but with fullness, strength and clarity. James’ cello added strings sound fuller than arising from one instrument. The melding of the voice, piano and cello is their marvelous forte. James became entwined with Branden to direct the music at a charity concert and their connection led them to play together. Since that date, they have toured over the world presenting their innovative, classically edged well-known pop songs. Original songs are also included and quite well-written.
The men selected her duet CD with Tony Bennett from 2014 and danced to “Cheek To Cheek”. This recording marked a widening of Lady Gaga’s repertoire and fame. How many versions of “A Star Is Born” were filmed? Four. Janet Gaynor’s 1937 release contained only a music soundtrack. The men reversed positions with James showing his own piano expertise while Branden warbled . Reminiscing about Judy Garland and her lead role in 1954’s “A Star Is Born”, they gave tribute with “The Man That Got Away”. “Evergreen [Love Theme from A Star Is Born]” brought the Barbra Streisand 1976 edition to the forefront in song and Branden handled the task with aplomb. Then in 2018, Lady Gaga’s own stunning “Shallow”nearly brought this local house down in both the lyrics and melody of the composition but with Branden’s soft, sincere presentation.
The tone turned to thoughtful notions with “Speechless”: “You popped my heart seams on my bubble dreams.” This added to the list of terrifically well-done songs. “Angel Down” [I’m a believer] was projected forwardly by Branden beautifully, nearly bringing tears to one’s eyes.
The men exude pleasantness with the looks and smiles on their faces. They make you feel welcome and appreciated and are indeed very happy that everyone was there. The duo love the feeling of singing and playing in front of a live audience instead of in a quarantined room.
Bad Romance” is like bouncing on a trapeze, a strong beat up and down. Branden revealed that they have been working on theis production since February, 2020 but feels like for years with this pandemic. Quoting from their website: “Since their inception in 2015, the cello and vocal duo have been defying odds by reinventing the rules when it comes to classical crossover music. Branden says, ”People tell us we’re so unique and different . I think that’s what excites us most. We’re actually doing something that hasn’t been done before.” Exactly. Upon first hearing, one may think that mixing classical with pop sounds odd. Their arrangements often start in a classical manner of cello and piano, then vocals begin and the song starts to evolve into the pop world. It is a mesmerizing and stunning listen.
Branden wrote an autobiography of growing up in a conservative religious family, being gay and struggling with all that life presented. The book is now available, “Lyric Of My Life” and he has been awarded already. Lady Gaga’s song “Born This Way” fits in snuggly with this theme. Lady Gaga’s standout memorable performance at the 2015 Oscars was a salute to Julie Andrews. Branden opened with a remarkable version of the title tune “A Sound of Music” which preluded a medley of songs ending with a breathtaking “Climb Every Mountain” from that musical masterpiece achievement. Lady Gaga and our men Branden & James shone brightly in the white spotlight.
The Palm Cabaret
Olas Altas 508
Zona Romántica – Southside, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
21st Anniversary Season
The box office is open from 10 am – 10 pm.
Gary R. Beck
Puerto Vallarta, JAL.
Note from The Palm Cabaret management:
* A new retractable roof for fresh air
* 5 new air filtration systems providing fresh cool air
* Seated 3 meters from the stage
* Private Plexiglass Booths in front of you and to the side
* Very limited seating available
We have sterilization infra red lights at night. Sterilized between each show. Plexiglass between groups, open air roof. 100% cooled fresh air blown in continuously, temps taken at door, hand gel at door, sterile matts at door , mask worn to seat. Waiters masked and shielded. Service bar was moved outside and the closest seat to the stage is 3 meters and behind plexiglass. Maximum occupancy less than 50%. Approx. 6 meters per client. (Regulation is 4) Pop in and visit any day to see for yourself.

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