A Night with Brandi Carlile

Concert Reviews, Features — By on August 25, 2012 9:16 pm

By: Amy Dolkas

Is music just about the songwriter’s life experiences or do songwriters help us to see life like we’ve never seen it before, even though we are living it? How is it that some very talented musicians can say the simplest line, and yet it so tugs at our heart strings that tears quickly follow? Can these life experiences be sung about with such wisdom from someone that has lived so few years? These are the thoughts that ran across my mind while listening to Brandi Carlile at her recent concert at the House of Blues in Anaheim. Her music goes beyond mere entertainment. It takes you to a place where you reflect on the past, appreciate the present, and dream about how things can be.
Carlile has the ability to write music that speaks to the human soul in aspects of loss, hurt, loneliness, restoration and love. In the backdrop of a music culture where outlandish style can often make up for a lack of talent, Brandi Carlile is a breath of fresh air with her grace, humility and awe-inspiring voice. She carries herself with the wisdom of an old soul, and that spirit carries into her music and live show.
The show was one of the final stops on Carlile’s summer tour for her new album, Bear Creek, which has transitioned her music into a few new genres.  She gets back to her country and folk roots in this album and tour, with songs like “Hard Way Home” and “Keep Your Heart Young”. I believe the raw country and folk sound is exactly the kind of music that she and her band were made for. While I enjoyed her past records which had a strong rock influence, Bear Creek’s country rhythms are the perfect fit for her raw voice which already held a slight twang in it.
For the first time, the band brought in the mandolin and stand-up bass into their music, and the result is a stripped down folk sound that showcases her powerful and haunting vocals. She still however, brings a prevailing rock feature to her shows, belting her hit song “The Story” along with every person in the crowd. Her live show mixes up the dynamics so the audience is never dulled by the same type of song playing over and over. Carlile alternates between songs with her alone on a guitar, sing alongs, full instrumentation and strength, songs played unplugged and songs sung a cappella. Her single of the record, “That Wasn’t Me”, emphasizes the beauty and significance of love and second chances, and brought the concert a moment of raw emotion.  Carlile is an artist that knows how to balance the quiet, acoustic, emotional moments of music with energetic and driving drum beats and electric guitar riffs.
Carlile is an artist whose live show is even better than her recordings. The musicianship of not only Carlile but the rest of her band is incredible. This was my fourth time seeing her perform in concert, and my favorite, for the band seemed to truly find their sound, as well as a new level of comfort with the audience. Carlile speaks to the crowd as if talking to a living room full of friends, sharing stories, philosophies and memories that led her to where she is today.

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