Friday, October 8, 2010

Brandi Carlile - October 6, 2010, Koerner Hall, Toronto

Brandi Carlile was a "recommend" to me by a fellow music fan early last year and she has become one of my very favorite artists.  I admit, I was skeptical, at first.  I tend to not enjoy "chick singers", because in large part, they lack substance (too much emphasis on the "presentation" as opposed to the "musicianship"), and her name alone invokes images of bubble gum pop, but rest assured, she is the real deal.  She can be classified as multi-genre and could be described as folk,  a wee bit country or rock (or more accurately, a combination thereof), but possesses an overwhelming sense of artistic integrity and raw talent.  She is, in a word, legitimate.  If you don't know her, are missing out.

Sitting in my front row seat....
TOUCHING the stage!!!!  Awesome!
 I had the opportunity last year to see her at the Mod Club and she was beyond fantastic.  So when her fan club announced that she was returning to Toronto, I was all over it.  Was very curious about the venue as well - Koerner Hall, in the Royal Conservatory of Music...swanky!!  Jakki and I managed to snag front row tickets even!

The opening act:

The opening act was Luke McMaster.  Do you remember a (Canadian) pop band from about a decade ago called McMaster and James?  (sheepishly admit that yes, yes, I do).  Well Luke McMaster was (obviously), the McMaster part of the duo.  He was pretty good, I guess.  Would classify him in the "singer-songwriter" genre - had an acoustic guitarist and backup vocalist to accompany him.  I guess the only problem I had with him was that he was a little, um, earnest.  A wee bit sweetly schmaltzy.  A talented, guy...sings, writes, plays...but not really my thing.  I have discovered recently that the majority of my mellow, ballad type songs on my ipod (like 99.9% of them), are of the broken hearted, stomped on, feel like your guts are being ripped out variety rather than the ain't love grand variety, so I acknowledge that it could just be me and my musical attitude preference.....C''s a well known fact...some of the best art was created in the midst of working through deep pain!

pic from her Mod Club show...
Koerner Hall didn't allow cameras

Perhaps as an homage to the venue, Josh walked on stage alone and took his seat at his cello opening the show with a solo.  Then the rest of the band joined him.  Brandi, the twins (guitarist Tim, and bassist Phil), and drummer Allison, along with cellist Josh, proceeded to entertain the shit out of us all.  No light show, no wardrobe changes, no dance moves, just stripped down, all about the music goodness.

I don't even know how long the show was.  (other than "not long enough").   We had a great variety....they pulled out the electric guitars and rocked the joint (not entirely sure the venue was prepared for chair was literally shaking!), pulled back and went acoustic ("I Will", one of my favorites of hers and my favorite moment of the night, she sat on a stool and picked it out on guitar, singing with eyes closed), and even did a couple of unplugged numbers, at the lip of the stage, no mic, using the natural acoustics of the venue and the strength of Brandi's voice to belt out the song.  (see below for video of "Dying Day")

At one point, she even put it out to the audience to pick the next tune.  People shouted out requests, and we voted by applause on what she played next.  One of my fave tunes off "the Story" album, a hidden track, won the applause-o-meter and it was a great pleasure to hear "Hiding My Heart Away" performed live.  UN-freakin'-real.

One more moment needs to be mentioned (there are so many, to give a play by play would go on forever)....

The band left the stage and she sat on a stool with her guitar and strummed a bit, explaining that this is the point on the written set list where it just says "me", where the band leaves the stage, and she decides on the spur of the moment, depending on how she's feeling, what song she's going to do as a solo.  Well didn't she launch into Patsy Cline's "Crazy".  What a great moment....I think Ms. Cline would have been proud.  I know it gave me the chills. 

Here's the thing with a Brandi Carlile live hear her recorded stuff and think "holy shit she's good", but performed live it's on a whole other level that doesn't even compare. The music just flows out of her and she has a vocal range that is pure and effortless.  (Her register is impressive, but she doesn't hit notes for the sake of display, it's pure and organic and flows naturally.  Just because a singer "can" hit those notes, doesn't mean that they "should" (Mariah Carey, I'm looking at you, ugh!)).  Brandi opens her mouth and it is just natural, skin humming, reverberate to your soul magic. Whether it be quiet beauty on some of her softer stuff, or belt out grrrrowl on the rockier tunes, it's balls out raw, feel it in your bones talent. And while a lot of her stuff tends towards the aforementioned heartbroken, working through some pain vibe, you know to watch her perform it, even when in the moment, that she's not tortured, she's having the time of her life....clearly the songwriting was her catharsis (and this is how I choose to justify my preference of the deep vs. the light and fluffy thankyouverymuch!).  Her and her wonderful band (love them all), really adore each other, have a great rapport on stage, seem to be enjoying life to the hilt and love what they do, and it translates to one giant freakin' love fest between band and audience. 

And even in the rather reserved venue built for a symphony type audience, when she exclaimed "and this is a song by the late, great, Johnny Cash" and launched into the rockingest version of Folsom Prison Blues ever, people couldn't help but get out of their cushy seats and finally, let it take them over.  Awesome.  Can't wait to see her again.

Dying Day - one of the 2 songs they did completely unplugged....

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