More often in a review, you breeze through where it is, and its location based experience. Good as this show was, we’ll get to it in a minute. My Brandi experience is heavily colored by the might Alltel Center. Brandi even commented within her show that their current tour brought them to many small venues and this was their first show in a hockey arena. However, part of my experience had nothing to do with Brandi. I had the luck of sitting next to two fine women who were in their seats due to the connection to the band. One of the women had grown up with the twins in the band (Tim and Phil Hanseroth, for those non-Carlile followers). They were a delight, even if she admitted she hadn’t spent time with the guys in many a year, she was a delight and i thank her for the chat. Ice venues and old friends aside, lets move on to the show.
Brandi Carlile is a folk artist who is somewhat of a female crooner, and this came shining through last night. On a tour that had been chosen to be acoustic (which in a folk rock group means drummer-less , the voice of her and her two part harmony twins was great. Phil Hanseroth was especially good laying down an acoustic body bass, which i am always proud of in an acoustic show. Pounding through 15 songs and a 2 song encore, she didn’t cease to entertain and converse with the crowd, telling them how fun of a crowd it was. Considering this was the largest point of their tour so far, that is most likely quite true. All the favorite hits were there that needed to be to fulfil a happy audience.
In an acoustic show some experimenting is always good to keep the audience happy. From singing three part harmony on one mic to a ukulele only song, to going completely unplugged, she kept us part of the show even in a big venue. Let me go back there. When i say she went unplugged, i mean she quieted the crowd down, and she and the Twins proceded to play at the front of the stage, mic-less. Only in a crowd so respective of a musician could this work. And work it did. “Have You Ever”, “What Can I Say”, and the crowd pleasing “The Story” were all there and all resulted in crowd singalongs.
Now, as Brandi told us in her interview with us earlier last week, they are a live band first and foremost. Regardless of the fact that she announced a new and upcoming CD, the band stayed true to its live roots by throwing down 5, count’em 5 covers, througout the night. Her covers from her live Boston show were still there, giving us a great rendition of “Creep” by Radiohead, and even drumless, a great cover of “Folsom Prison”, compensating the lack of a drum section by bringing out the opening band to help by laying down banjo and fiddle. Starting her encore with her traditional “Hallelujah”, what impressed me most was her Beatles bookends. One of the first songs to start the night was “I’ve Just Seen A Face”, to which my new friend, the lady next to us aptly stated “I wonder if anyone knows this is a Beatles song?”. Of course they do, I’m sure they saw Across the Universe. What surprised me most was their final song of the encore. With Brandi, Tim and Phil each taking a verse, the band closed out the show on an emotionally high note with their version of “Let It Be”. It was serene, beautiful, and a great way to end the night.
I wish I had more negative to say about the show. I’ve heard it makes your review more legitimate. So, in a slight attempt to do so, I can say this. The opening artist, Gregory Allen Isakov, is fine I am sure in smaller shows, but his solo guitar, and occasional backup violinist, seemed awkwardly small in the big arena. Also, I would state that though a distortion effect on a mic is obviously a personal choice, I would say this. We already have a Bob Dylan, and one is enough thanks. To Alltel Center, spend some change, get a spotlight. Intelligent Lights only go so far, and when you dim the stage to a blue effect and the artist is dark, that’s called bad form. To Brandi and the band, sadly for you that is where my bad ends. Every time I have seen you in concert, I have been impressed. It is the most engaged I have ever been for a band without a drummer. Thank you for that. Keep up the good work.
Brandi’s work is available now on iTunes, and available through Amazon.com. If you are new to her, I would suggest her Boston EP. Its a good 4 song smattering of what you should know about her if you want to dip your foot in the water.