Perfect temperatures and a receptive, sold-out crowd set the stage for an evening of emotional but uplifting folk rock. Review, photo gallery.
Brandi Carlile is riding high on a wave of well-earned artistic and commercial success.
The Washington-born singer-songwriter is touring in support of her chart-topping sixth studio album, “By the Way, I Forgive You.” She’s selling out venues across the country, including a recent two-night stand at Boston’s Orpheum Theater. And she can count a disparate collection of famous names among her fans, with everyone from former President Barack Obama to radio personality Howard Stern singing her praises.
The ever-gracious Carlile and her band (including twin brothers and her long-time collaborators, Phil and Tim Hanseroth) shared their celebratory spirit Wednesday night with an enraptured sold-out audience at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. The roughly two-hour show stayed true to Carlile and company’s trend of delivering crowd-pleasing efforts at the popular outdoor venue of which Carlile is a professed fan. (“Because the night is so beautiful, we had to do a special set list,” she said at one point, before launching into a John Denver medley.)
A rollercoaster set of 19 songs traversed Carlile’s career, drawing from the folk-rock singer’s past works but most prominently centering on her newest release, which Slant called “the most emotionally direct and revealing album (Carlile’s) released to date” and which Pitchfork dubbed “a move toward the prestige era of her career.”
EMOTIONAL SONGS THAT PLAYED WELL TO A RECEPTIVE AUDIENCE
To be certain, while Carlile’s songs always have had an emotional frankness, her latest material can just positively gut you. And that plays well to a receptive live audience, as was seen Wednesday evening, with a majority of attendees standing, dancing and singing along for much of the show, a not-entirely-common sight for those familiar with the sometimes-staid Meijer Gardens crowd.
“The Joke,” an anthem for young people who are disenfranchised and dismissed by their peers because of their perceived “otherness,” drew an impassioned reaction. “The Mother,” a forthright reflection on parenthood, seemed to land with the strong contingent of moms and dads in the crowd, many with their tiny, ear-muffed humans in tow. And on the flip side was “Most of All,” with its bittersweet and hopelessly honest confrontation of our own parents’ flaws.
Older material (“The Eye” from 2015’s excellent “The Firewatcher’s Daughter” and mega-hit “The Story” from the 2007 album of the same name) of course, scored well, but the crowd certainly gave due recognition to the new stuff, as evidenced by the reaction to show closer/encore “Hold Out Your Hand” from this year’s “By the Way…”. It was an aspect of the show that Carlile said she appreciated: the audience’s embracing of her new stuff and patience with the many quiet ballads.
The addition of a string trio — plus intermittent backing vocals from Laura Rogers and Lydia Slagle of show opener The Secret Sisters — instilled a richness to the show, as did Carlile’s occasional turns on the piano for songs such as heartwrencher “That Wasn’t Me.”
The Secret Sisters, whose newest album was produced by Carlile and the Hanseroth brothers in the wake of the duo having been dropped from Republic Universal Records, kicked off the evening with 45 minutes of charming murder ballads and Americana.
PHOTO GALLERY: Brandi Carlile, The Secret Sisters at Meijer Gardens
Photos by Kendra Kamp
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