Thursday, September 20, 2007
Brandi, Brandi, Brandi
You walk into Texas Union Ballroom and it couldn't be a more perfect place for Brandi Carlile to play. With candle-lit chandeliers and dark wood everywhere, a random stage set up on one side and people began to filter in. It's an intimate setting...maybe at max holds around 500. It wasn't sold out, but it should have been.
I just finished reading this book, "This Is Your Brain on Music. The Science of a Human Obsession." There was a chapter in the book where it talked about music and emotion. Those of you that know me, know I feel everything to the deepest extent. There is NO gray area in my feeling. (I know it drives a lot of people absolutely NUTS) In the book it says that music communicates to us emotionally through systematic violations of expectations. Those violations being domain of pitch, timbre, contour, rhythm, tempo and so on. Brandi does just that with every song. She moves you to this place where you want to escape with every word and sit with that feeling for a little while.
Her show....a bit of a religious experience. Pulling from both of their releases (2005’s self-titled Brandi Carlile and this year's The Story), the band moves through crowd favorites like "What Can I Say," "Closer to You," "Josephine," "Wasted", and you anticipate the recent album's title track. Carlile's incredible pipes alternate between growling notes and swooning melodies, displaying the impeccable control and ingenuity that is so rare in contemporary vocalists. Her flip from chest to head voice is for the most part....seamless, and when it isn't, it makes sense. They come back out for an Encore and attack a cover song you won't generally hear a woman singing. One can only imagine the smile on my face as they began to play Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues," and Carlile pulls it off with all the playful regret Cash intended, proving once and for all that she knows what she does best, and won't stop until everyone else does, too. Gib Droll was a guest guitarist with them for the evening and his solo on "Folsom Prison Blues" is a spotlight-stealer. (if you don't know who Gib Droll is, well he is an absolute gem. I have seen him play with a few bands and he always adds this extra 'thing'. He just has it.) You can't forget the cello player on stage as well, who is given a few moments to shine, and shine Neumann does....it is cool to see a cello player rock out.
This band was on. I mean ON.
There were a few moments in the evening when Brandi went completely out of the box. She sat down with her 4 band members and did a 3 song set totally acoustic. Then she did one new song completely unplugged. Even her vocals. Totally in the air, and you could still feel her energy without the sound system.
One particular moment I probably won't forget is when she sat by herself during the Encore and played a new song. It was a song about a friend who had committed suicide when she was 16 and 10 years later, had finally made peace with it. Her vulnerability made you feel as if it was just you and her in your living room...talking about tough life shit.
So she wrote a song about making peace and forgiving her friend. These words:
"I was 16, I was a Baptist, I was angry, I was a daughter, I was wrong."
After that, she stood, switched guitars and broke into Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" Soulful, honest, careful. It was the perfect ending to a perfect night of music.
Her tour might be coming to a city close to you. I paid $18 for these tickets. I would have paid $50. Check our her schedule here and make it happen.
In the words of Shakespeare:
"If music be the food of love, (Brandi) play on."