In Reno, Toni Braxton turns sad songs into glad moments

Tahoe Onstage

Toni Braxton made her Reno concert appearance personal on Saturday, Feb. 23.
Tahoe Onstage photos by Shaun Astor

“I want you to imagine I’m singing to you in your living room,” Toni Braxton told the crowd as she took a seat at stage-front and the starry backdrop dimmed as the spotlight reached out to her. The R&B singer, a seven-time Grammy Award winner, went on to coo and belt out the words to “Another Sad Love Song,” only a couple feet away from those nearest to her.

This spatial barrier, however, would be removed altogether when, during “Breathe Again,” her band played an extended arrangement while Braxton walked among the aisles of the Grand Sierra Resort’s Grand Theatre on Saturday night, shaking hands and posing for pictures with ecstatic audience members while she continued to sing.

This was the singer’s most alluring asset over the course of her show; her ability to engage and include the audience while exhibiting an elegant and playful demeanor and delivering her songs with modest updated rearrangements that kept her classics new and upbeat for a live setting.

She asked members about their relationships, repeating the funniest of their replies, or, with a smile, saying that for the sake of propriety she wasn’t going to repeat their answers. Braxton offered her own laughable stories of inspiration behind a catalog of songs that admittedly favors the more sad side of relationships – one of which included an extended impersonation of a conversation with her friend, Lil Kim, asking Braxton to sing at Kim’s future wedding.

After asking the age of some of the couples in the crowd, Braxton smiled and said there were ‘parts of her’ that were only 20 years old, a joking reference to the cosmetic surgery that has made the singer appear almost younger now than at the height of her singing career in the 1990s

At just under an hour and a half, Toni Braxton unfolded a set that seemed like hit after hit, climaxing in the singer dedicating “Un-break My Heart” to her aunt, who had just passed away a couple weeks earlier. She held back sobs while singing a slower version of the song that built to a crescendo. And while Braxton’s current career involves a lot more acting and producing than recording, the tear-less crying allowed her to flex both muscles for the benefit of the show, and she emerged, makeup still flawless, to sing “Long As I Live” as the show ended.

The performance included audience members being picked to slow dance onstage while being serenaded by Braxton, an almost comedic display of back-and-forth banter between the singer and audience members between songs, and a solid musical performance by her band and backup singers. All told, Braxton took a career of sad love songs and provided a memorable and fun night for the full theater.

— Shaun Astor

Shaun Astor / Tahoe Onstage

About Shaun Astor

Shaun Astor cites pop music singers and social deviants as being among his strongest influences. His vices include vegan baking, riding a bicycle unreasonable distances and fixating on places and ideas that make up the subject of the sentence, "But that’s impossible…" He splits his time between Reno and a hammock perched from ghost town building foundations. Check out his work at www.raisethestakeseditions.com

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