photos by Chris De la Rosa
By S. Pulse
Every now and then music fans will hear a voice that is so unique and powerful, that it makes you rethink music. We heard such a voice Friday night as Brandi Carlile performed under the stars at the Moody Amphitheater. Her yodel-like leap between notes added suspense to her live performance. You just did not know which direction her voice was headed. Would she shoot up for that unimaginable high note and nail it? Or would she drop down into a smooth and subtle celestial Patsy Cline finish?
Such vocal acrobatics were on full display as she hit the upper register in her opener “Broken Horses,” belted out her rock and roll howl on “The Story,” delivered the subtle sparse beauty on “Right on Time,” and displayed her unreal range in her closing number, a cover of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Each song of the evening served to shine light on Carlile’s diverse talent, delivering to the crowd an aural Cirque du Soleil.
While Carlile’s voice garners a great deal of attention, it is also the band “Brandi Carlile” that deserves some serious props. Make no mistake about it, Brandi Carlile is a rock band. “The Twins,” Tom and Phil Hanseroth, opened the show with a dueling guitar medley, exchanging rock riffs, and setting the tone for the evening. Both brothers are talented musicians, songwriters, and collaborators. Phil Hanseroth penned “The Story” prior to the formation of the band. The brothers also provide harmony vocals. A favorite moment of the evening was Carlile and the Hanseroths’ three-part harmony acapella performance of “The Eye.” And while we like this softer side, we also loved The Twins edgy shredding that was on full display during Carlile’s cover performances of Bowie’s “Space Oddity” and Radiohead’s “Creep.”
Opening act, the duo Lucius, joined Carlile on stage for several songs, including on the Joni Mitchell influenced “Build Your House on a Rock.” Introducing the song, Carlile said that when touring stopped for the lockdown, she initially thought “everything I do is gone,” but, at home with her family, she realized that “everything I love is here.” This made her recall attending Vacation Bible School and the lesson about the wise man who built his house on the rock. Carlile added that, during the lockdown, she looked around at her family realizing that “I had become a ‘big happy gay’ and I had built my house on a rock. That might not be what Sunday school had in mind.” And with that, she grinned and launched into the peppy tune. The crowd reacted positively to the many personal recollections Carlile shared throughout the night; each story further enduring the audience to Carlile.
See all our concert photos on Austin 101 Magazine.
While introducing the song “The Mother,” Carlile shared another personal story musing that her older daughter, Evangeline, was sent “to challenge everything I believe” as evidenced by the fact that “she was born to two lesbians on Father’s Day.” Carlile then launched into the moving song about motherhood, with the support of the band’s string quartet, a group of talented musicians whose contributions throughout the night added a symphonic component to many of the evening’s songs. Carlile followed with another motherhood-based song “Mama Werewolf”, explaining that this song is a more accurate description of what she’s really like as a mother.
Another talent of note on the stage was Shooter Jennings on piano. Carlile referred to as him as her “ride or die.” Having produced with Carlile, these two have a history of working well together. Their collaborative friendship will undoubtedly receive more exposure this fall following the release of the documentary “The Return of Tanya Tucker: Featuring Brandi Carlile” which chronicles their production of Tucker’s album “While I’m Livin’”. However, on Friday night, it was Jenning’s piano skills that were on display. Jennings awed the audience all night, but particularly so with his piano work during an encore performance of Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock.”
Elton John is another major idol of Carlile’s. She gave a shout out to him Friday night as she took her turn at the piano. While sitting at the bench, she noted that “I was raised by Elton John. It didn’t win me any friends, but I’m all right now.” And, with that, she launched into one of our favorite performances of the evening, “Right on Time.” Wavering between subtle whispers and large full-bodied crescendos, this year’s hit, delivered all the emotional feels you would expect. However, Carlile was just revving up the emotional rollercoaster. She followed with a rapid-fire trio of the heart-wrenching “Pride & Joy,” the inspirational “The Joke,” and the moving “Party of One.”
Brandi Carlile is a giving band. They were easily cajoled to return for the expected encore. Joined once again on stage by Lucius, they performed Joni’s Mitchell’s song “Woodstock” with beautiful harmonies. Lucius also lent vocals to the next song “Alone,” a rock anthem by i-Ten, and made famous by Heart’s cover of the song. Again, Brandi Carlile is a rock band, and they certainly highlighted that ability on this rock ballad. The band followed up with the raucous folksy “Hold Out Your Hand” and then zagged over to the melodic “Stay Gentle.” The encore closer was a perfect nod to Gay Pride with her spine-tingling performance of “Over the Rainbow.”
One logistic note to the evening. It was a sweltering day, but as the sun started to set, the Moody Amphitheater became a surprisingly manageable temperature. The venue is still relatively new, and they are still working out some kinks surrounding smooth entry. To avoid long entry lines, arrive early. Also, we suggest approaching the front gate from the south, as lines were much shorter arriving from this direction.
Check out our full set list below. And if you want to see more of Brandi Carlile, look for them out on the road as their tour continues through October and keep an eye out for their ACL Live taping from last week that will air this fall on PBS.
Twintro (opening guitar medley by The Twins)
The Things I Regret
You and Me on the Rock (featuring Lucius)
Space Oddity (David Bowie Cover)
Creep (Radiohead Cover)
This Time Tomorrow
Right on Time
Pride & Joy
Party of One
Woodstock (Joni Mitchell Cover – featuring Lucius)
Alone (i-Ten Cover – featuring Lucius. You may recall Heart’s cover version.)
Hold Out Your Hand
Over the Rainbow (Harold Arlen cover)