Earlier this month, well over a thousand people packed into the Berklee Performance Center, many for the first time at the venue, to see a rare, solo performance by the chart-topping singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile. The sold-out show can partially be attributed to the singer’s fame with her popular songs, such as “The Story,” but also for her notoriety as an incredible performer. And the huge applause Carlile received after listing each and every Boston venue she’s played in the last decade (House of Blues, Orpheum, Paradise, etc) only reinforced the already-overwhelming anticipation for her performance.
And from the first notes of “Dreams,” all the stories about Brandi’s Carlile live shows proved true. Carlile’s rich, textured voice, ranging from a full-bodied growl to the clearest soprano tone, was more than effective at conveying the full-band energy without her band led by “The Twins,” Tim and Phil Hanseroth, who have been Brandi’s writing partners and constant touring companions for almost a decade. In fact, one would never know this tour is her first one entirely self-accompanied or that her most recent tour included a full compliment of musicians and an entire symphony orchestra, as Carlile’s voice hardly needed the PA system at all, which she so perfectly demonstrated singing “What Can I Say” on guitar, completely off mic and unplugged. The combination of Brandi’s soaring voice and the Berklee Performance Center’s acoustics were enough to give someone goosebumps and created an intimate performance that made the large hall feel like the small Boston clubs Brandi Carlile began playing so many years ago.
The overall ambiance of Brandi’s show was far more rousing than most BPC shows, as Carlile encouraged the crowd to shout requests for covers or songs from her own catalog, and to sing along, which the entire audience did with glee and vigor. Among the more memorable requests from the evening, an eight-year-old child requested the song “Caroline” to more-or-less success, as Brandi didn’t know how to play the song but led the audience in an a-cappella chorus of the song anyhow. Also, several times throughout the evening, a wave of requests arose from the audience for the “Tick-Tack” song, which referred to a track from Brandi Carlile’s upcoming album called “Keep Your Heart Young” that has already hit the rounds on the internet earlier this year.
In addition to “Keep Your Heart Young,” Carlile also performed two more songs from her upcoming album, including “That Wasn’t Me,” which found the singer at the piano, a newer addition to Brandi’s concerts. “That Wasn’t Me” speaks from the voice of an addict aching for a second chance, and, like “Keep Your Heart Young,” was already a fan favorite and a frequent request from the audience during the concert.
Brandi Carlile had her opening act, The Secret Sisters, join her to perform her third new song, “Raising Hell,” which traded the gentle nostalgia of “Keep Your Heart Young” and “That Wasn’t Me” for vindictive angst. The Secret Sisters also joined Brandi for “The Sweet By and By,” adding their gorgeous Appalachian harmonies to the old folk standard.
But “The Sweet By and By” was not Brandi’s only cover that evening. Not surprising given her incredible voice, Carlile’s well-known for her covers and made certain to treat the BPC audience to several famous country and pop songs including the Patsy Cline classics “It’s Over” and “Crazy.” Representing Carlile’s more contemporary pop side, she also performed Damien Rice’s “Cannonball” and closed the show with her now famous cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”
Fans of Brandi Carlile and curious music lovers alike would be wise to seize this opportunity to see the songstress on this tour, as the more exposed and relaxed format of her solo shows is not to be missed!
*all photographs taken by the author