Brandi Carlile returned to The Egg’s Hart Theatre Wednesday night for a stunning show that bettered her 2010 appearance here, in every way.
For 90 minutes, Carlile and her band pounded the packed house with tunes from all four of her albums, covering everything from unplugged acoustic folk (literally) to full-throttle, muscular rock ’n’ roll. The enthusiastic throng ate up every moment, cheering, clapping and singing along through every song.
Carlile wasted no time finding her groove. After a short intro, the band launched into “Raise Hell,” one of the standout tracks from new album “Bear Creek,” and immediately made her vocal presence known. She could carry an entire show a cappella if she wanted to — her sultry croon was at once beautiful and terrifying, breaking up like a warm tube amplifier as she really got into it.
Longtime collaborators Phil and Tim Hanseroth — the Twins, as they’re lovingly referred to by fans — anchored the music with solid bass and guitar playing, respectively, not to mention fine harmonies woven throughout. The rest of the group — including longtime cellist Josh Neumann, violinist Jeb Bows and drummer Konrad Meissner — were no slouches either, with Meissner taking a drum solo before second song “Dreams.” Bows and Neumann got to shine shortly thereafter on the heart-rending “Before It Breaks,” adding flourishes behind Carlile’s piano and vocal.
New song “100” was a highlight early on, building to a furious crescendo that ended on an ear-splitting high note. Things got quiet for a while after — really quiet, with the aforementioned unplugged song, “What Can I Say,” which earned Carlile her first standing ovation from the enthusiastic crowd.
The band continued in this mode for “Caroline” and another new song, “Keep Your Heart Young,” written by Tim Hanseroth. The acoustic portion of the evening climaxed with Carlile belting out “Looking Out” solo.
From here on out, it was all about the rock. A cover of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” felt a little underwhelming (only instrumentally — Carlile was spot on vocally). But the group quickly righted itself with “Turpentine,” during which Carlile drafted the audience to sing three-part harmony. But best of all was main set closer “The Story,” with the band really cutting loose and Carlile’s huge vocal on the final chorus pushing the song over the top.
Montreal roots rockers The Barr Brothers opened, earning a standing ovation. Guitarist Brad Barr and harp player Sarah Page stood out, interlocking wonderfully on “Beggar in the Morning” and the lilting “Old Mythologies” early in the set. When Barr switched to electric guitar, things really picked up, especially on the ominous riffing of “Deacon’s Son,” driven home by Andrew Barr’s incessant drumbeat.
The group saved the best for last, though, turning in a proto-metal version of Blind Willie Johnson’s “Lord, I Just Can’t Keep From Crying,” with Brad Barr ripping away on distorted acoustic guitar with his slide.