Brandi Carlile charms Lowell

A review of Brandi Carlisle at Boarding House Park on August 1, 2008

, Staff Writer

With her passionate voice, eclectic sound and poignant lyrics, Brandi Carlile charmed the near sell out crowd with an inspired performance at the Lowell Summer Music Series at Boarding House Park on Friday night in a show co-sponsored by Boston Music Spotlight.

With the sun setting, a warm breeze blowing and the smooth sound of a cello playing, (accolades to cellist Josh Newman) Carlile opened the show with “What Can I Say” from her self-titled album. The song’s emotionally raw lyrics set the stage for a very intimate ninety minute performance that effortlessly blended material from her two studio albums, recently recorded new music and cover tunes.

After “Late Morning Lullaby” from her 2007 record The Story Carlile showcased her yodeling skills by performing “Have You Ever”, a song written by fellow band member(and self proclaimed stargazer) Phil Hanseroth that, much to the delight of the band, was actually used by NASA to wake up the astronauts in space. Talk about the perfectly written song!

Following “My Song” Carlile slowed things down a bit with the powerful ballad “Cannonball”, which not only showcased her strong vocals but featured harmonies by twins Tim and Phil Hanseroth that perfectly complimented the song’s sorrowful lyrics "There’s a man all alone /Telling me his friends are gone / That they’ve died and flown away / So I told him he was wrong / That your friends are never gone /If you look to the sky and pray."

With the audience stunned into silence, Carlile took time to thank the fans, saying “This is a great place for us to play, you see we go to all these places and they only know stuff from The Story, this is the one place we can play some stuff from our first record” and delighted the audience with back to back tracks, “Fall Apart Again” and “Follow” from her first studio album Brandi Carlile.

Up next was the cover of Clearance Clearwater Revival’s song “Fortunate Son” that, despite being written nearly thirty years ago, Carlile declared, “It’s come back around and makes sense again”. Not only is the song’s message timely, but Carlile’s emotional, raspy vocals transported the audience back to the 60’s.

Bringing us back to current times, Carlile asked the audience to “Do me a favor on the next song, sing with me”. Carlile, along with the Hanseroth brothers, led the audience in an old fashion sing along to her hit song “Turpentine”, saying, “I need the people in the trees to sing along, it will be cool, trust me”. And cool it was!

Slowing things down again, Carlile sang the very personal, “Downpour”, which was initially written about missing her parents whilst away at college, but can now be used to describe how she feels about missing her year old niece, who is “A little freak/weirdo about music” while on the road. With its enduring lyrics "You’re growing older in peace where you’re at/ I wish I could be there for that",& & Carlile demonstrates that well written songs are indeed timelessness. She then closed out the main set with “The Story”.

Back on stage for an outstanding encore, Carlile asked the audience “are you in the mood for a little country music”, before launching into a rousing cover of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues”. Carlile then gave the audience what they had been hoping for all night, two brand new songs. Including the heartbreaking, “That Year”, a song inspired by the suicide of a friend when she was just sixteen, stating that writing the song, “Helped her make peace” [with the loss].

Then paying tribute to her strong country roots, Carlile jokingly sang excerpts from a few of her classic country western “influences”, including “I Don’t Want to Play House”, “I Am Going to Hire a Wino to Decorate Our Home” and her personal favorite, “Stand By Your Man” before playing “Same Ole You” a song that according to Carlile, “Incorporates all the clichés into one song”.

Closing out the powerful performance, Carlile drew on her angelic voice for a beautifully rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”. It was simple, pure, it was Brandi Carlile!

By openly discussing the, sometimes painful, inspirations behind her songs, the exceptionally talented singer/song-writer easily created a bond with the audience that developed over the course of the show, and by the end of the set, it felt like one had spent the evening with a great friend talking about life, live and loss.

Opening the show in support of Brandi Carlile was Boston native Jen Murdza.

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