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A patruses his smartphone get lyrics Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah'for his sing-a-long moment Brandy’s Piano Bar 235 E. 84th St. New

A patron uses his smartphone to get the lyrics to Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah"for his sing-a-long moment at Brandy’s Piano Bar, 235 E. 84th St. on New York’s Upper East Side. | DAVE HOEKSTRA PHOTO

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Updated: October 17, 2012 6:26AM

People are certainly face to face at Brandy’s Piano Bar, 235 E. 84th St. on New York’s Upper East Side (212-744-4949;

I wandered into Brandy’s around 11 p.m. on a Friday and the place was packed with neighborhood 20- and 30-year-olds and a table of Asian tourists drinking bottles of Stella ($7). Brandy’s is in a nondescript brick-gray building that dates back to the late 1800s. The room holds only about 65 people. Brandy’s advertises a two-drink minimum per person per set, but it was so crowded no one enforced it with me. I guess I blend into crowds like this.

Brandy’s debuted in the 1960s as a singles bar, changed ownership and then came back in the early 1980s as a piano bar.

“Piano bars are dying out in New York,” said manager Joe Connell, who has been around Brandy’s since it was first tickling the ivories. “The bars all used to be family. Bartenders, the waitreses, they still all sing here. We’re open to everyone, straight and gay.”

Brandy’s has speakeasy touches with century-old lantern lamps (that used to be gas lit, according to Connell) and whorehouse-red accents. Lettering on a front window simply reads: “Good Time Saloon.”

New York always offers a songbook of odd moments and Brandy’s delivered.

Flamboyant piano player Matthew Nakoa was taking sing-along requests. One guy sauntered to the piano and asked for the dramatic (and now overplayed) Leonard Cohen composition “Hallelujah.”

The guy began singing it off-key — from lyrics on his smartphone.

Hallelujah, because Nakoa then resumed his regular fare of the 1984 Deniece Williams hit “Let’s Hear it For the Boy” and, yes Abba’s unbearable “Mamma Mia.”

Dave Hoekstra

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