Review: Brandi Carlile displays range and power at Hart Theatre

Brandi Carlile had been going for nearly an hour and a half in The Egg’s Hart Theatre Thursday night

Brandi Carlile had been going for nearly an hour and a half in The Egg’s Hart Theatre Thursday night when her band cleared the stage and she sat down at the piano. Jaws were about to drop.

Not that there hadn’t already been quite a few jaw-dropping moments in her set — the band had just finished ripping through a ferocious version of “The Story,” a great set closer if there ever were one. But as Carlile began delicately coaxing out the chords for Tears for Fears’ “Mad World,” the assembled crowd had to have known something special was coming. As she reached the pensive song’s second verse, she really began belting it out with all the emotion she could muster, while cellist Josh Neumann played counterpoint.

It was a poignant end to an evening that took the nearly-full house on a journey through just about every musical emotion, from jaunty acoustic pop to understated beauty to full-on rock ’n’ roll.

Neumann kicked things off with a surprise, playing the bridge to Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” on his cello before the rest of the band came out for the ukulele-fueled “Oh Dear.” Carlile immediately commanded the proceedings, her rich, throaty vocals filling the theater with ease. “Looking Out” kicked things into full gear immediately after, introducing the crowd to the power of the Hanseroth twins — guitarist Tim and bassist Phil — as well as drummer Allison Miller.

Things took a turn for the quieter with “Late Morning Lullaby,” and went completely unplugged for “Dying Day.” While at first it seemed as if things would be a bit too quiet, Carlile’s amazing voice once again saved the day.

The acoustic numbers continued with “I Will” and “Caroline,” a song originally recorded with Elton John on piano and backing vocals for last year’s “Give Up the Ghost.” The stripped-down, acoustic guitar version presented here worked just as well, evidence of a great song standing up to any arrangement tweak thrown its way.

“Dreams” kicked off the rock once again. Carlile, who had up until this point either played acoustic guitar or played nothing while singing, then sat at the piano for one of the evening’s finest moments (and indeed, one of the finest moments off “Give Up the Ghost”). Beginning with a haunting, mournful melody and eventually cascading into a full-blown electric guitar workout, the song provided ample evidence of Carlile’s flexibility as a musician and songwriter — as if any more were even needed.

Opener Gregory Alan Isakov’s set began inauspiciously enough. His deep, gravelly vocals were a bit mush-mouthed, especially on quieter folk-y numbers such as set opener “All There Is.” The painfully shy South African (he admitted later on that he’s “not much of a talker”) and his small band nevertheless won most of the audience members over as they were finding their seats, finally cutting loose with his final three numbers.

Chunky rocker “Evelyn” showed off a side of the singer-songwriter that hadn’t been seen up until this point, and carried over into “This Empty Northern Hemisphere,” the title track off his most recent album. When the drummer and lead guitarist left for Isakov’s final number, he took this newfound confidence with him, turning in perhaps his finest moment, solo.

Categories: Entertainment

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