LIVE: Brandi Carlile @ the Palace Theatre, 5/6/18
Review by Mark Alexander Hudson
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
Brandi Carlile must be proud of her new album, By the Way, I Forgive You. So much so that in her recent stop at Albany’s Palace Theatre, before an almost sold-out gathering of her devoted “Bramily,” she played it in its entirety – all 10 tracks.
That pride is justifiable.
The album is a wonderful collection of songs, at once heart-wrenching and heart-warming, addressing the big topics – love, death, jealousy and, yes, forgiveness.
Carlile is a fiercely political, openly gay dynamo of a performer, but never descends into posturing and hectoring her audience. As well as being loud and proud, she, like her songs, can also be quiet and fragile. No
sloganeering here, just impeccable songwriting.
For example, songs about coming to terms with parenthood (“The Mother”) and your own parents (“Most of All”) are beautifully nuanced.
I do not think I have heard a better one-liner describing the joy and frustration of being a parent than “The first things she took from me were selfishness and sleep.”
If these songs don’t strike a chord then check your heart for masonry. Carlile’s music is hard to define. There are obvious flavors of country, folk and bluegrass, but they are often mixed with a rock edge, like the Johnny
Cash punkabilly tilt-a-whirl that is “Hold Out Your Hand.”
And when she swapped her acoustic for an electric guitar, she stomped around the stage with the glee and abandon of an 11-year-old channeling her inner Joan Jett, her stage persona easily switching from sweetheart of the rodeo to blackheart of the Bowery in an instant.
Another indication of her rockier roots was her choice of cover version – the bombastic Led Zeppelin arrangement of the Anne Bredon folk song, “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You,” in which she impressively approximated Robert Plant’s feral howl.
You may have heard her latest single, “The Joke,” on the radio, echoing (and in my view surpassing) the Spectorish drama of her one big mainstream hit, “The Story.” That song, along with others from the new album, boasts a gorgeous arrangement by the legendary Paul Buckmaster, recreated live by a string trio.
Rolling Stone calls her music “righteous Americana,” and I guess that’s as good a description as any.
Carlile was at pains to point out that “Brandi Carlile” is a band, referring to the importance of her collaborators, Tim & Phil Hanseroth. As well as handling guitar and bass duties respectively, the twins, as they are known, sing backing vocals and have co-written and co-produced all of the material throughout her career.
Opening act was the Secret Sisters, Laura & Lydia Rogers from Muscle Shoals. They too are part of the Bramily, with Carlile and the twins producing their latest album You Don’t Own Me Anymore.
With just their voices and one acoustic guitar they easily held the attention of the crowd, their sibling harmonies reminiscent of their major influence, the Everly Brothers. They even covered “Let It Be Me” to drive this point home.
The sisters re-emerged during Carlile’s set to add more vocals, including on their own song, “Missisippi.”
On the show closer, they joined Carlile for an unamplified a cappella take on “Amazing Grace.” It was a goosebump moment when the crowd joined in on the well known verse, a suitable ending for a night that had provided many spine-tingling moments.
BRANDI CARLILE SET LIST
Every Time I Hear That Song
Harder to Forgive
Have You Ever
Fulton County Jane Doe
Mot of All
Babe I’m Gonna Leave You
Whatever You Do
Party of One
Hold Out Your Hand