Friday, October 16, 2009
brandi carlile will rock your world
I have my bathroom to thank for Brandi Carlile being in my life. If I hadn't redone it from scratch last summer and been forced to relocate to my folks' house for two months, I never would have watched almost every second of prime-time coverage of the Summer Olympics. And I certainly wouldn't have heard and fallen in love with her song, "The Story," which was played repeatedly for a commercial. I also have my father to thank, who on his own went out and bought me her brilliant album of the same title.
So that's how I found out about this amazingly soulful rock-country-pop chanteuse from suburban Washington State. It's rare to find a singer who can as easily pull off moving folksy ballads as absolutely steamroll through Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues." But Carlile does it all with a maturity that far exceeds her 28 years.
I was lucky enough to catch Brandi in concert recently when she played the Beacon in Manhattan. I scored third-row seats close to dead center, and this made the experience pretty magical. Carlile works closely with a set of twins, Phil and Tim Hanseroth, who play guitar and bass and who also contribute backing vocals. The set started off with the three of them plus their new drummer huddled around a single mike on the soft unplugged ballad, "Oh Dear," which actually concludes her new album, Give Up the Ghost. Carlile then proceeded to rattle off song after song from her three full-length albums, all the while giving the audience some amusing and, at times, poignant commentary (this play-by-play is from an earlier concert, but you definitely get the idea).
Highlights of the show included "Turpentine," in which Brandi divided the audience up into sections so that we could engage in a resounding three-part harmony at the appointed times. She also led her bandmates in a completely unplugged version of "Dying Day," which was absolutely incredible. This is the historic Beacon Theater, mind you, full to capacity as far as I can tell. A barefoot Brandi and friends shuffle up to the very front of the stage with no microphones, no amps—nada; they belt out this song; and heck if we didn't all get a chill down our spines. It was a bit of an emotional roller coaster later on in the show. Brandi gushed like a 12-year-old with a crush about recording sessions with her idol, Elton John, who sang and played piano on one of her new tunes, "Caroline." Shortly thereafter, she broke into a devastating song, "That Year," about the suicide of one of her high school classmates.
One particularly amusing moment came when Brandi introduced a new song she'd written as a spoof of modern country tunes. She played us a few examples of horribly bad lyrics from actual songs she'd heard on the radio, and then broke out into this hilarious new piece, the name of which I didn't catch. She also took to the piano to do a lovely rendition of "Let It Be" before finally rocking out to her big hit, "The Story," which I had first heard during the Olympics just over a year prior. Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention what was perhaps the most rewarding event of the whole concert for me: when Brandi threw one of her guitar picks into the crowd and it hit my leg. I've been using that pick ever since to practice my guitar again after having let it collect dust for a couple of years.
Suffice it to say, regardless of what kind of music you listen to, you pretty much can't be a human and not be entertained at a Brandi Carlile concert. So if she stops by a venue near you, do not walk, run to the box office and make sure you get a ticket. This young lady is going to be a huge star and will most likely be selling out arenas before long, so get a piece of the action now while the crowds are more intimate. I guarantee you won't regret it. ∞