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

George Winston Concert Review Austin

February 2020 at One World Theater in Austin, Texas (Night Two)

by Gina Alligood

I attended Wednesday night’s concert looking forward to hearing live, the sounds of the Winston music I fell in love with in the early 80’s. I’m happy to say I was treated to that and a much broader range of Winston music than I was acquainted.

George Winston - Publicity Image 3 COLOR - Photo Credit - Todd V Wolfsonphoto by Todd V Wolfson
Austin’s iconic One World Theater offered just the right intimate, earthy, and elegant atmosphere for a George Winston concert. In his no -frills manner he stepped onto the stage and announced to the audience that he had two setlists- Winter and Summer. Tonight we would be hearing “Summer” and with that out of the way, he sat down on the bench, still and straight-backed, and let his fingers do their magic.

George Winston - Publicity Image 7 - Photo Credit - Todd V Wolfsonphoto by Todd V Wolfson

The first piece, “Dr. Professor Holly,” livened us up on a cold night with a blend of styles, New Orleans jazz and Buddy Holly. True to how the evening would transpire, he took off in a whole new direction with “Rain”, his signature, self-described ‘rural folk’ piano. Like a summer sprinkle, the notes cascaded across the audience , and I could feel the calm settle on the listeners around me.

Anyone familiar with George Winston knows his admiration for the compositions of Vince Guaraldi, so of course we were treated to his medley of Linus and Lucy tunes. Happy music punctuated by the quick, lively and light movement of Winston’s fingers across the keys. “Elephant and Mouse” showed off his love of the Stride piano style made famous by the 1930’s legendary stride pianist Fats Waller.

I was mesmerized by the bold, quick rhythm of his left hand providing the dependable beat while the fingers of his right danced with the definitive rhythm of Stride piano and its hints of ragtime. I enjoyed listening to the music as much as watching the movement of his hands, appearing to have a life of their own.

Throughout the evening it was clear that this is an artist who continues to have more to explore and more ways to push his instrument to its fullest. He reached into the piano with one hand to dampen the strings as he tickled keys with the other, intermittently emphasizing a note with a slide of the finger down off the edge of a key, and finally bowing reverently over the black and white as the sounds of his last note come to absolute quiet.

The evening continued with more Stride piano, New Orleans Jazz, rural piano, the classical sounds of epic Pachelbel’s Canon  in “Variations on the Kanon by Pachelbel”, and Sam Cook’s civil rights protest song, “A Change is Gonna Come”. We got to hear the Doors’ “Riders on the Storm”, from his 2002 album “Night Divides the Day: The Music of the Doors”, and “Kai Forest 2”, a harmonica piece. Turns out he has a set of harmonica recordings you can listen to on his website.

And if that wasn’t enough to give everyone something they could enjoy, he took us in a whole new direction with a guitar piece. Always interesting, Winston plays a Hawaiian finger-style genre of music known as Slack-Key guitar. This reflects Hawaiian and universal themes of the past, feelings of the present, and aloha for loved ones; the ocean, bays, rivers, and waterfalls; the volcanoes, mountains, and valleys; the forests, plants, animals, and birds; the sea, the wind, and the land. What a perfect synergy to Winston’s nature-themed piano pieces. The dexterity and speed of the movement of his fingers was fabulous on the guitar; he added a low 7th string. I hope we hear more guitar from Winston.

Restless Wind-GeorgeWinston

The evening came to an end with a piano fan favorite from the early years, Vince Guaraldi’s “Cast Your Fate to the Wind”. With a formal bow he headed off stage then quickly returned for a wonderful Appalachian guitar piece and then said “goodnight” to a standing ovation. It was a fabulous evening of a diverse sampling of genres and instruments, more than I had hoped for. I’m excited to buy his 2019 CD release, “Restless Wind”, for a lovely evening of music at home in front of the fire.

See the full set list at Georgewinston.com.

Legend Celine Dion Returned to Texas in Epic Courage Tour: Review

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The night opened with a cool video of Celine getting ready, putting on her makeup and she appeared in a stunning red glitter slit dress with matching pumps, flawless makeup, and toned arms. The sold-out show had fans singing and cheering from the get go, and Dion appeared as happy and healthy (incredibly fit) as we’ve ever seen her.

Dion is on her 14th tour in support of her 2019 album “Courage”. Her first words were about how ten years is way too long for her San Antonio return, and she spent much time talking about “What went wrong? It’s unacceptable and we’re going to fix it” and then shared how Vegas stole her for awhile. She was fully prepared to make up for her absence.

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We knew the show would be an incredible performance, but she blew us away. She is the ultimate performer and has been doing it for decades-has it nailed down. Celine was engaging with the crowd throughout the entire show and she was brimming with emotion, and often smiling and then touched her eye as if stopping the tears, and would say, “I think something is in my eye….maybe a bug, I don’t know”. In another moment she raised her glass and said “cheers to your health”. Her wit and humor (sometimes cheesy) is part of her flirting with the audience and she enjoys it. One moment while taking off her jacket, “that’s all that’s coming off” with a grin.

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The set list was a robust mix from her massive catalog that perfectly blended timeless classics, “Beauty and the Beast”, “Because You Loved Me”, “All By Myself”, “My Heart Will Go On”, with mid-range stuff and new songs “Courage” and “Lying Down”. She also sang beautiful songs in French. Celine did a beautiful job playing Andrea Bocelli in their duet “The Prayer”. Her ability to hit incredibly high notes, gave us chills. It’s clear she has worked very hard to take care of her voice and her health. Her voice skills are a piece of art with the height and octave range.

The stage was massive, the lighting and set were elegant and tasteful, as is Celine, and the piano was incredible; the full strings and brass section and back up singers- plus 3 raised percussion/keyboard sets gave such a volume of sound. The mix of the bands classy outfits and her red dress was stunning.

CELINE-DION-2020-0130-193Celine strutted confidently in very high heels (more than 6 inches?) and covered large distances to reach every part of the audience. Towards the end of the main set, a video of her doing ballet with her friend, showed off her fit body and her dance skills (who knew?). Wow.

We couldn’t help think of Kobe Bryant who had just passed away that week, as we were looking at Tony Parker and other NBA jerseys hanging in the rafters in ATT Center where the Spurs play.

Her career will continue to “go on” and we can’t wait to see how she continues her self-reinvention. It’s clear why the Courage World Tour was one of the top shows of 2019 and we think it will make our 2020 list. Don’t expect many empty seats.

Check out all our show photos on Austin 101.

Set list:

  1. It’s All Coming Back to Me Now
  2. Dans un autre monde
  3. Terre
  4. A vous
  5. I’m Alive
  6. The Power of Love
  7. Beauty and the Beast
  8. Encore un soir
  9. You’re the Voice
  10. Regarde-moi
  11. Ziggy
  12. Courage
  13. All By Myself
  14. Lying Down
  15. Tous les blues sont écrits pour toi
  16. S’il suffisait d’aimer
  17. Let’s Dance / Another One Bites The Dust / Flying On My Own / Kiss / River Deep, Mountain High / Lady Marmalade

Encore
18. My Heart Will Go On
19. Pour que tu m’aimes encore