Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
imes have changed for Brandi Carlile. She pointed out well that when she first played the downtown venue nine years ago, she only sold 600-700 tickets.
Safe to say that she's picked up a few fans along the way as she herself was happy to report that this show had gone clean in one of her most supportive cities.
It's not all that hard to see why either. Carlile has always been a consistent performer - singing, songs, stage presence and band. That has not changed.
The concert didn't start with Carlilie. Cellist Josh Neumann, who provided nice touches at varying points during the nearly two-hour show, came out on stage alone and the starting the evening off on "The Firewatcher's Daughter," the title track of Carlile's latest. With emphasis on her vocals, putting her off to a good start. Curiously, she then kicked in with her biggest hit, "The Story," which sounded about as fresh and inviting as ever. At this stage of her career, Carlile apparently has enough confidence to not save her best known material for the end.
Carlile indicated that while her name may be on the marquee, she considered this a band. As well she might given the inclusion of, as she called them, The Twins. That would be Phil and Tim Hanseroth, who play bass and guitar respectively. With bald pates and a gangly presence, both have also been key parts of the Carlile team. They often added backing vocals with Tim particularly efficient on guitar.
But give Carlile credit for also having the smarts to know how to put a show together that never flagged. She mixed it up musically from rock to a country tune or two to rootsy sounds.
The sonics varied from rockers to acoustic songs with The Twins on acoustic guitar to a capella. A self-acknowledged Christian (Carlile told a funny story about becoming a Southern Baptist when she was 16 as a sign of rebellion against her parents. Her father told her that he knew some things about her that she didn't realize that would not sit well with the church - her lesbianism without her saying so), Carlile closed out the night with an interesting presentation of "Amazing Grace."
In some ways, what better way to close the night out with the Saturday night/Sunday morning idea at hand? Interestingly, Carlile called back the opening act, The Secret Sisters (Laura and Lydia Rogers) to the stage for a reading in the dark with the crowd eventually kicking in.
Carlile has worked hard to build her audience over the years through quality albums and shows. With a sold-out crowd, she reaped the rewards.
And with a few more performances like this, maybe one day The Secret Sisters will prove that their name is a misnomer. The Rogers are the female equivalent of The Everly Brothers with great harmonies on a bunch of country songs, including one new song ("Tennessee River") that they played live for the first time ever, with a few gospel touches ("River Jordan").
The Secret Sisters, who have worked in the studio with Carlile, have a lot of quality songs, including "Black and Blue," "Dirty Lie," a Bob Dylan song they completed, and "Bad Habit" where they can sound haunting and build a lot of intensity in their delivery.
It also helped that Lydia Rogers is such a natural on stage. She is filled with a lot of funny stories that proved really engaging. No wonder that the crowd gave them a big hand by the end of their stint. With Rogers herself joking about seeing opening acts, The Secret Sisters were a most worthy opener.