It didn’t really feel all that much like a big opening night. And I mean that in a good way.
Maybe that’s a compliment to the organizational competence of Live Nation, the national tour booking corporation that owns and operates the newly constructed Fillmore in Minneapolis’s North Loop. If nothing else, these folks are pros. On the club’s first night, some long lines outside the doors incurred more than a few grumbles and shivers early on, but the traffic snarl was mostly sorted by the time I got there at 7:30. And once you made it past security, the show-going experience was a fairly smooth one.
Or maybe there’s a comfort level baked into the design of the venue itself. This is a brand that knows how to construct a room that feels like someplace you’ve been before, piggybacking off the hazily recollected rep of the legendary Fillmore clubs on the coasts to create a prefab tradition that mixes homey and flashy. And if personal space was at a premium on the general admission floor (maybe they should have… filled less?), you could scoot up to the balcony level to decompress, even if you hadn’t shelled out for the VIP tables that lined the rails.
Or maybe it was just Brandi Carlile, a smart pick to inaugurate a new club, especially here in the Twin Cities. The folk-country veteran is such a familiar performer locally, having played just about every joint in the area, and carries with her such a defining stage presence, that she made the room her own on the first of her three sold-out nights.
In broad-brimmed white hat, cowboy shirt, and snug jeans, Carlile performed a nearly two-hour, career-spanning acoustic set that included many of the full-throated and full-hearted songs her fervent admirers come to hear: “The Story,” “Eye,” “The Joke,” “Turpentine.” She was, as ever, flanked by her faithful “twins,” the brothers Tim and Phil Hanseroth, who’ve been supporting her for two decades. She shared a story about how she met the bros when she was just “a little lesbian folksinger and busker singing Indigo Girls covers” and how she looked up to them at the time. “Six months later I had these bitches locked down,” she joked.
Throughout the night, Carlile voiced approving, if vague, sentiments about the venue. “Now this just feels right to me,” she said to start her set. “This reminds me so much of when we started coming here to play gigs,” she added later on. “I love this room,” Carlile said. “It just feels right.” And while some of that was just pro forma stage banter and some a credit to the crowd’s warm approval, the room certainly sounds right: The three-part harmonies hit with a physical force that made the lack of a drummer or electric instrumentation moot.
As for that appreciative crowd, it was truly all-ages, including at least one excited tween leaping with delight, and an infant, swaddled in protective ear-gear, being comforted in the upper level. Carlile even sang “Happy Birthday” to a nine-year-old named Savannah, then apologized for saying “fuck” a few minutes later.
Carlile’s set included nods and tributes to other songwriters she loved as well. She brought out opener Courtney Marie Andrews to perform “May Your Kindness Remain,” and moved to the piano to perform “Bring Me My Flowers Now,” a song she wrote with Tanya Tucker for the country legend’s 2019 comeback album. Her voice took on an approximation of Tucker’s alto rasp as she sang, and she talked about coaxing Tucker out of retirement and into the studio, and watching her regain her confidence onstage. Then her piano rolled into the familiar sorrows of Joni Mitchell’s “River.”
Carlile began her encore with “Highwomen,” the sharp rewrite of the outlaw-country classic “Highwaymen” that provides a statement of purpose for her newish country supergroup with Natalie Hemby, Maren Morris, and Amanda Shires (called, of course, the Highwomen). By the time Carlile ended the night with the full, ripe singalong of “Pride and Joy,” she had all but upstaged the room she’d been praising. Maybe we were in the newest club in town. But we were definitely at a Brandi Carlile show.
Check out our full photo gallery of the show and the club here.
The Things I Regret
What Can I Say?
May Your Kindness Remain (Courtney Marie Andrews cover)
Wherever Is Your Heart
Fall Apart Again
Bring My Flowers Now
River (Joni Mitchell cover)
Pride and Joy