Saturday, February 20, 2016

An Evening with Brandi Carlile at The Parker Playhouse

parker playhouse

I only got into Brandi Carlile about 5 or 6 years ago, but instantly fell in love with her voice. One day, while listening to her catalog the first time through, I was listening to "Pride and Joy" and sort of got lost in a cross generational day dream that made the whole song very personal and emotional. I imagined the conversation in this song to be one where I was speaking to my dad at times, to my daughter at others and finally, in some future, my daughter speaking to me. My dad had passed about a year before my daughter came along, and I've mentioned before that when she did, it somehow made me feel more connection to my father. So, anyway, I got to hear Brandi play this song live last night, finally, among others at the Parker Playhouse and it was a really fantastic show.

It was to be an evening with Brandi Carlile, no band, just solo acoustic. The Parker Playhouse is small to midsized theater so there's not a bad seat in the house and the acoustics are perfect. At times I wished her mic was slightly louder, but I think that's because my ear is stuffed up. At one point she went off mic for "What Can I Say," which is now the third time I've seen an artist do that (BRMC and Elvis Costello where the others) and each time, it just totally blows me away. It's one thing when an artist can project well enough to do that in the right venue, but what makes it extra special is when they have the unspoken power to keep the audience perfectly quiet while doing so. There's something really magical about being completely silent with a large group of strangers, intently listening to and connecting with and through a naked performance like that. Glad someone posted this on YouTube. Thanks, hartsfelder, whoever you are.

I'd been wanting to see Brandi since I first heard her. When I first heard about the show I already had tickets to see Gary Clark, Jr. but this was honestly an easy decision for me. I'll catch Gary at some point. Throughout the night I was glad I was seeing her in this setting, while also wishing I could see her with her band as well. Maybe next time, but nothing is lost when she strips down some of the bigger songs like "Raise Hell" or "The Story." And, really, I'll always lean toward the intimate performances more. So seeing her with the band would be great, but I would want it to be a small venue as well. 

One of her encores really blew me away and almost deserves it's own post. She said she sings this song for her daughter as a lullaby, then proceeded to play The Pretenders' "I'll Stand By You." Holy fuck. Maybe because of the time that song came out and the emotional state I was in back then, it has always gotten to me, as it is. But the simple framing of her singing this to her daughter made me think of my daughters and put the song in a whole new perspective and I was seriously choked up. When she went to the higher octave on this, I wasn't sure I would be able to keep from sobbing. Thanks again to hartsfelder for capturing this.

A lot of labels can get applied to music and musicians. And many musicians seem to embrace these labels either because it helps to sell records or I don't know. Not the point. The point is that some musicians, like Brandi, are clearly about the music, the songs, and not the labels. Yes, at one point last night she referred to herself as a "lesbian folk singer" while telling a story about Justin Beiber at the Grammys, but it was done with a bit of sarcasm. So when she closed the night with "Amazing Grace," not only off mic, but in the dark it was a moment that shows why I'm a fan. It's all about the music, not her.

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