Brandi Carlile – Gruene Hall, TX

Returning to the historic Gruene Hall for a sold-out show, Brandi Carlile and her band (including twins Tim and Phil Hanseroth, Josh Neumann, and Allison Miller) once again proved themselves as powerful performers, worthy of packing venues nation-wide.

“This is the show that when you leave home you look forward to,” Carlile said acknowledging the crowd. “I’m so excited… And we weren’t always playing packed halls in Texas, there was a time we’d play every gas station and coffee shop… Duke’s Clam Chowder…”

Opening the set with a drum solo from Miller (replacing Neumann’s cello intro from the last time we saw them) their methodology was clearly to shove as many favorites as possible alongside a healthy dose of fresh tunes. And there’s something beautiful about an artist that can swing from guitar-driven rockers (“Looking Out,” “Rattle My Bones”) to entirely acoustic (“Dying Day” which was performed at the edge of the stage without amplification but with incredible projection) to covering The Ramones, Patsy Cline and Alphaville.

With their latest record, Live at Benaroya Hall, recorded live with the Seattle Symphony out now and an 18-track studio album recorded and being readied for release, the new songs fit well with the back catalog. “Rattle My Bones” fulfilled Brandi’s promise to the fans that could’t hear “Dying Day” that they’d “rock your face off later,” while Promise to Keep and the beautifully executed piano number, “That Wasn’t Me” reach a introspective level that we’ve come to expect.

Partially in homage to the venue, and partially because deep down Carlile’s got country in her “voice and bones” even though she’s a self declared rock ‘n’ roller, tattoos and all, the middle section of the show certainly had some twang. After a discussion on which vintage country singer was more bad-ass (“Tammy Wynette – because she sang about things you wen’t supposed to talk about,”) and being a female singer in Nashville in the early ’60s (Patsy Cline was saving up to buy a refrigerator, even after numerous #1s, when she recorded “Crazy”) Brandi sang a spine-chilling rendition of the tune.

“Same Old You,” which will be recorded by Miranda Lambert in the near future, followed a medley of country classics (“D-I-V-O-R-C-E,” “I Don’t Want To Play House” and “She’s Hired A Wino”) and the tale of writing a song with every horrible, “and by horrible, I mean wonderful” country cliche and singing it to her mother only to hear instead of laughter a sincere “Honey, I think that’s your hit.”

As the show drew to a close, with crowd participation on “Turpentine” and a glimpse underneath all that country with “I Wanna Be Sedated” the band left Brandi and Josh alone for a new song with piano and cello and the closing number, and aforementioned Alphaville cover, “Forever Young.” “If you’re like me, Goonies loving, tattoos of the AURYN from the Never Ending Story… You’ll appreciate this, children of the ’80s.” She joked about the keyboard melody, early Madonna and her love for the song. “I used to adore this song, now I laugh but the lyrics make an important point. It needs to come back.”

Brandi and her band will be on the road most of the summer and will be playing the Friday of Austin City Limits Festival in September.

Set List
Drums (Boom Boom)
Dreams
Looking Out
Closer To You
I’ve Just Seen A Face (Beatles Cover)
What Can I Say
Dying Day
Promise To Keep
Crazy (Willie Nelson cover a la Patsy Cline)
Country Medley > D-I-V-O-R-C-E > I Don’t Want to Play House > She’s Hired A Wino
Same Old You
Rattle My Bones
Turpentine
The Story
Pride and Joy
——
I Wanna Be Sedated (Ramones cover)
Folsom Prison Blues (Johnny Cash Cover)
That Wasn’t Me
Forever Young (Alphaville Cover)

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Photos by Nichole Wagner

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