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Brandi Carlile Rocks the State Theatre

Posted by Carly Mallenbaum on 01/31 at 03:56 PM

Members of the audience were tapping their heels, clapping their hands, and even harmonizing along with Brandi Carlile while she performed last Tuesday night at the State Theatre.  And I don’t think it was just because some of them were drinking.

The show opened with The Andy Tolins Duo because the original opener, Gregory Alan Isakov, had a “medical emergency,” Tolins (singer and guitarist) said.  Tolins and his bassist had a laidback stage presence, jamming to original songs about red-hot foods and crocodile exhibits at the zoo.  The blue-grassy duo helped get the audience excited for the main event. Tolins said, “I just listened to Brandi Carlile.  She’s pretty good.”

Though Carlile might be “pretty good” on her album, she is awesome live.

Carlile entered (in an adorable vest and pair of boots, mind you) to a dark, candle-lit room and a beautiful cello solo by bandmate Josh Neumann.  The opening song, “Oh Dear,” sung with just a ukelele, proved that Carlile sounds even better live than she does on her record.  The artist’s powerful voice prompted me and the people around me to mouth “Wow.”

Then, Carlile rocked out with guitars, piano, and drums for the new track “Looking Out” before getting into the older “Late Morning Lullaby.”  Though Carlile admitted to the audience that she used to prefer to play her songs “unplugged,” without a full band, she said she later “realized how fun it was to play with a full band.”  Fun, indeed.  The songs were tap-worthy to say the least, and had me marveling at the power of folk music.

Carlile did, however, get to play an “unplugged” version of “Dying Day.”  Her voice had no problem filling the entire theatre.  “This is like a campfire party!” she said before singing “I Will,” a very vocally demanding song.

Carilie entertained the crowd with stage banter throughout the performance. Before getting into “Caroline,” Carlile told a funny story about how Caroline, her two-and-a-half-year-old niece, said “Crap!” for the first time. Throughout the show, Carlile joked about how a few seats in the front row were empty.  “I’m going to give them a hard time,” she joked, but the rest of the theatre made up for the absence of those few seats.

“Usually this is the kind of theatre that’s really quiet,” Carlile said about State Theatre.  “But you are a great crowd,” she said to a cheering audience.  Naturally, cheers of “We are…” ensued, and the audience’s energy didn’t falter for “Dreams” and “What Can I Say.”  There was clapping along to the songs.  Carlile and bandmates Phil and Tim Hanseroth even had the crowd sing certain harmonies to the slower “Turpentine.”

Finally, Carlile pleased the crowd (specifically some drunk girl who kept yelling, “My Story!”) by playing “The Story” (which is the song’s actual title) and then doing some seriously impressive covers.

Carlile’s unfaltering voice lent itself well to REM’s “Mad World” and rivaled American Idol runner-up Adam Lampert’s rendition, by being at least as eerie and as beautiful as his version.  The Hanseroth twins played Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence” that sounded just like the original, and the full Carlile band performed Johnny Cash’s “Jackson,” which had everyone on their feet.

“I’m playing more songs than I’m supposed to,” said Carlile.  And she played a touching solo of “That Year” and then brought the band back for “Downpour.”  The energetic artist closed the show with “Pride and Joy” belting out the chorus with all she’s got.  Her standing ovation was well deserved.

Before going to the show, I thought Carlile’s songs were bit hokey, the lyrics a bit melodramatic, and the sound a bit too folksy for my taste.  But once I suspended my disbelief for a second and stepped outside my music comfort zone, I realized that Carlile is a true talent.  She’s a “real” musician in an age when much of what we hear is digitized and manipulated.  The girl can sing, she can play, and she has a sound that’s uniquely hers.

I write this review as I wear my new Brandi Carlile concert tee. 

{name} Author: Carly Mallenbaum
Bio: Carly Mallenbaum is a junior majoring in Broadcast Journalism with a minor in Law and Liberal Arts. At any given time, you will likely find her dancing, running, reading, playing soccer, or listening to music with her huge green headphones. She loves many types of music, specifically alternative rock and anything she can dance to. Some artists she likes are John Mayer Trio, Coldplay, Vampire Weekend, Justin Timberlake, G. Love, Spoon, and The Beatles.

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