Concert Review: Brandi Carlile Live at Nashville’s Historic Ryman Auditorium


by Katie Beck

On March 28th, Six-time GRAMMY Award-winning singer, songwriter, musician, and producer Brandi Carlile and her band emerged from lockdown to perform a special livestream concert from Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium. The show streamed on the Veeps platform to a global audience, just over a year after Covid shut down life-as-we-knew-it, including our ability to see live concerts.

The livestream started with a nice montage of concert photos of Ms. Carlile set to Willie Nelson’s famous “On the Road Again” which has gained popularity again during the pandemic.

Emotions were high as the lights lifted slowly on Brandi strumming the recognizable opening chords to Cohen’s Hallelujah on her acoustic guitar. She wore a fitted red suit (which she said was a tribute to friend Elton John), plaid shirt, and cowgirl tie while belting out the soulful lyrics. Her voice was clear and gorgeous, with its signature soulful trills and half yodels. It was pitch perfect and a fitting song given the 1892 historic church setting with incredible acoustics and beautiful stained-glass windows. The lyrics touched on mourning, redemption, love and loss; a fitting expression of all we’ve experienced collectively over the past year. She was clearly getting the audience ready spiritually for what was to come – we were in the church of Brandi. 

photo credit: Sachyn Mital 

Carlile greeted the socially-distanced crowd with a joyful smile; “Got all dressed up, makeup on my face, I am in it!”, she cheered.

She led into “Raise Hell” with rousing upbeat foot-stomping then the whole band joined in. The six-piece band, dred-locked Phillip Townes on piano, drummer Chris Powell, and her guitarists/songwriters, twins Phil and Tim Hanseroth, and cellist Josh Neumann filled the church with amazing sound. Between songs, she addressed the audience with her Brandi love: “What an emotional, unspeakable honor to be playing in this place tonight…. It sounds good in here! Even in your masks, you sound good!”

The show was extra special as the band was making history that night – playing, to a vaccinated crowd, for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic started and sent everyone into lockdown over a year ago. It was clear from their stellar sound and radiant expressions that the band was enjoying the concert as much as the audience. Brandi reminded them they were live-streaming to a “Madison Square Garden sized audience.”

photo courtesy brandicarlile.com

At certain moments I wished I was there in person at the famous Ryman. But watching the livestream performance was still a treat and at times emotional. The energy came through even on my laptop. You could feel the collective loss of live music this past year, but also joy and a reminder of how healing music can be, especially during difficult times.

The top-notch production captured the band’s power and presence through impactful lighting, background videos, and tremendous stereo sound. Streaming fans commented on how emotional it all was as they’ve been craving live music this year.

The set had a melded mix of new songs and fan favorites like “The Story” which displayed both her cracking yodel skills, belting out the song’s familiar chorus cascading down shifting harmonic chords. For crowd favorite “Turpentine”, the band sectioned out the audience who sat in face-masked clumps in the multi-level pews to sing 3-part harmonies. “I know we’re gonna be ok,” Carlile belted out over the loud fan chorus.

For “Have You Ever” she led intentionally with yodeling, “since we’re here at the mother church, we gotta do some yodeling!” Her lyrics are clearly a tribute to nature and her love of her native Washington state. “If you’ve ever wandered lonely through the woods…. have you ever stared into a forest sky…or ever been out walkin’ in the snow.?..” Neumann’s cello solo mesmerized the crowd. Online fans felt it too, “her joy is palpable.” “So miss those harmonies.”

The set list also covered several songs from her award-winning 2018 album By The Way, I Forgive You, including Grammy winning “The Joke” and several from her collaboration with Miranda Lambert and Maren Morris in Highwomen. Guest Monica Denise joined her for a duet on popular “Crowded Table”. She gave a shout out to Tanya Tucker and the Highwomen, “I miss my girls”, she said when talking about her ‘country-adjacent career’ that thrives in Nashville. The deeply personal “Evangeline” had Carlile opening up about motherhood and challenges of modern roles and identity- a song she named her daughter after. One reason she connects so deeply with her audiences is her willingness to be real, to be vulnerable, and relatable.

Carlile paid tribute to a slew of other artists – collaborators and muses- that continue to inspire her today. For Joni Mitchell fans, she played her song “A Case of You,” – “I could drink a case of you, still be on my feet.” In honor of Elton John’s birthday, the band lit into a rendition of “Madman Across the Waterstarting with the acoustic guitar in its wistful minor key and building tension through layers of piano, cello, and electric guitar. It turned into a full-on sweaty jam session complete with ‘80s rock and killer guitar solo at the end.

Towards the end of the set, the multi-instrumental Carlile jumped over to the piano chatting about life and marriage during the pandemic diving into the ballad “Party of One”.

The night fittingly wound down the church-like performance with “Amazing Grace” in full sound, four-part gospel harmony featuring surprise guest Lydia Rogers, Carlile, and the Hanseroth twins. She introduced it by saying “Stay safe, stay sane, we love you.” The entire show felt like a religious experience (afterall it was Palm Sunday). The lyrics ‘how sweet the sound’ were so true and poignant.

Overall, the show felt intimate and emotional. Despite the venue capacity of about 2400, there were only a hundred or so in attendance. It felt like Brandi didn’t want to stop. She was clearly reminded of the vibe and thrill of playing in person again.

Fans who purchased the $25 tickets not only saw a full 2+ hour concert, but were also given a free copy of Brandi’s memoir, Broken Horses (soon to be released). Brandi has always been quite generous. The show, her first full-band performance since before the pandemic, raised money for two organizations—The Rainy Day Fund and Fanny’s School of Music—with all remaining proceeds supporting Carlile’s band and crew.

See more reviews and concert photos of Brandi and other artists at https://austin101magazine.com/category/music/

Set list:

Hallelujah (cover)
Raise Hell
The Story
The Eye
Fulton County Jane Doe
Have You Ever
Cannonball
Sugartooth
Madman Across the Water (Elton John cover)
The Mother
Wheels of Laredo (The Highwomen cover)
Crowded Table (The Highwomen cover) (ft. Monica Denise)
A Case Of You (Joni Mitchell cover)
Turpentine
The Joke
Pride and Joy
Party Of One
Carried Me With You
Amazing Grace

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