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Words & Images by: Bill Clifford

Bomb Squad :: 03.22.07 :: Toad’s Place :: New Haven CT

Brenna Gethers – The Bomb Squad :: 03.22
2006 American Idol contestant Brenna Gethers has some big shoes to fill. She’s the new frontwoman for The Bomb Squad, whose former lead singer, the fiery and enigmatic Jen “Pipes” Durkin, left amicably in summer 2006 to pursue other musical interests and spend more time with her two children. With Durkin up front, the band took home the 2003 New Music prize at the American Music Awards. Performing its own brand of funk-rock, The Bomb Squad was making waves.

Other than Gethers, the 2007 Bomb Squad remains essentially the same unit – Brad Mason (trumpet), Mike Raskin (tenor sax), Ian “Q” McHugh (guitar), Dan Grennes (bass), Darby Wolf (keys), Glenn Robertson (drums) and Damon Grant (percussion). So the question is, with Gethers front and center, can the band still deliver straight-up funk-rock to the masses?

The Bomb Squad :: 03.22
The spring tour started at hometown stomping grounds, Toad’s Place. When the lights dimmed, the band took the stage to Bill Conti’s “Going The Distance” from the Rocky soundtrack. Without missing a beat, the horns launched into the heavy hitting “Starbanger” and we had the answer to our question. Gethers fits right in, wearing dark shades and a hooded shawl. She belted it out with ferocity and moved with the presence of a stage veteran. And despite a set list made up of only Bomb Squad originals, she fumbled only a few lyrics all night.

By the time they came around to “Big Hot Money Spot” she was warmed up and had the crowd eating out of her hand. Vocally, she lacks Durkin’s dexterity but she more than made up for it with a street sensibility that fits well with the Squad’s hard driving funk. She performed sensually, using her figure to her advantage, playing with the crowd and drawing them closer with her blazing smile.

Brenna Gethers – The Bomb Squad :: 03.22
The rest of the band was tight, having used the time between singers to perfect individual parts. On the Latin-tinged “Do Whatcha Gotta,” Mason blew a trumpet solo that moved every soul in the house. Tunes like “Hey Good Looking” showed off Mason and Raskin, one of the stronger horn tandems in music today. Mystic Bowie sat in for his Latin rap cameo on “El Stinko.” Though this was the first time he and Gethers had performed together, the two looked like they’d been doing this for years.

The foot stomping audience brought them back for a three-song encore that left everyone satisfied. While Gethers may not have Durkin’s range, she has the passion, sensuality and charisma of a seasoned performer. Together with the experience and talent of The Bomb Squad, she may just yet reach idol status after all.

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