Brandi Carlile at Varsity Theater, 12/30/2012
Photo by Youa Vang
Brandi Carlile with Filligar
Varsity Theater, Minneapolis
Sunday, December 30, 2012
Making her way back to Minneapolis for the fourth of five shows in the Cities in 2012 (two at the MN Zoo in June, one at the Fitz for Wits, and the remaining two at the Varsity Theater), Brandi Carlile is not shy about her love for Minnesota, her biggest market. She said to the sold out crowd, "Hello there, Minneapolis. Look at you, one of my favorite places in the world."
Being the first of two New Year's Eve shows, Carlile encouraged the crowd to "leave behind everything that happened to you this year," a mentality that Brandi often integrates into her lyrics. The performer opened with her bluesy "Raise Hell" and fell back on an old favorite of "Dreams." Often drowned out by the audience's singing, her evident joy of playing in a room full of people solely there for her could be felt to the back of the room. While the evening's set was heavy with tracks from her latest album, Bear Creek, Brandi threw in quite a few covers, surprising for an artist that has such an extensive catalog of songs.
The singer plays into the girl-next-door persona with her unassuming beauty and wit, perhaps that is why she is so accessible to her fans. Much of that charm is on display between song, whether she is talking about when she and the Hanseroth twins were touring with Hanson back in 2004, or when she recently played the Grand Ole Opry that had much of her Minnesota relatives descending on Nashville. Carlile commiserated, "Poor Nashville."
Photo by Youa Vang
Carlile still sang a lot about heartache like in "100," but may be changing her tune -- no pun intended -- to something happier since she was recently married. She pulled out "Closer to You," an older piece that is not often played, but she figured she would perform it anyways. The tune showcased Carlile's beautiful range and brought out her country background including her semi-yodeling twist. The song segued into a rousing cover of the Beatles' "I've Just Seen a Face," perhaps an ode to her new wife.
Brandi once voiced her wish to be able to duet with Dolly Parton on her most country sounding song, "Keep Your Heart Young, so it was no surprise when she covered Parton's -- whom Carlile said was the most punk-rock singer there was -- "Jolene," and added her own punk-rock influence to it.
On what seemed like a too short set, Brandi closed with her biggest hit, the touching love song "The Story." As a tribute to her favorite city, Carlile opened her encore with Prince's "Nothing Compares 2 U." Although it was not as heartbreaking as Sinead's version, Brandi still was able to emote the anguish of a song that could have been written especially for her. Introducing her single "That Wasn't Me," Carlile told the story of how it's taken a new meaning. "This year before Christmas, I got to sing and play my guitar for some ladies at a prison. When you're in prison, you're in the most confined space, but these ladies seemed so free, because before they were so confined with drugs. This song is about forgiveness."
For those that left early, a treat of Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues," a song that had the crowd singing and dancing along as soon as they heard the opening refrain, was missed. Raising her guitar in salute to the audience, Brandi blessed the audience with, "I wish you all good things in life."
Critic's bias: Carlile's show at the MN Zoo was one of my favorites of the year, and it's safe to say she is extremely consistent with her delivery.
The crowd: A dedicated Brandi Carlile fanbase.
Overheard in the crowd: "Not a Birkenstock in sight."
Random notebook dump: For her show in June, it was cold and rainy. For this winter show, it was hot and steamy in the venue.
What Can I Say
Hard Way Home
Before It Breaks
Closer To You
I've Just Seen a Face
Keep Your Heart Young
What Can I Say
How These Days Grow Long
Nothing Compares 2 U
Pride and Joy
That Wasn't Me
Folsom Prison Blues
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.