October 14, 2009
Today my students asked for music as they worked, and I put in the new Brandi Carlile CD. Not halfway through the first song, one of them pleaded, “Turn it off!” I was a little disappointed that they didn’t like it, but then he said, very sincerely, “It’s so sad. It’s going to make me cry.”
I appreciate the sentiment, but with the heart-breaking quality of some of Brandi Carlile’s songs, there is also a haunting beauty, and her new album has been on repeat in my car, my house, and my head since we went to see her in concert last week.
We were a little hesitant to see her at the 930 Club after her intimate acoustic show at the Birchmere in March. But the price was right (just $27 each), and she played an early show, so we let go of our reluctance surrounding the venue.
We arrived at the perfect time – moments before Brandi and the band came out to sing an acoustic version of Oh Dear. If we had been secretly afraid that the show would be too like the performance at the Birchmere (afraid of a repeat of an amazing show?), those fears were quickly assuaged. Brandi’s banter with the crowd is just effortless (and it’s easy to pretend it’s not rehearsed, though you know that any artist must repeat the same jokes night after night), and two of the only songs that seemed like repetition were a Turpentine sing-along and the unplugged version of Dying Day (which I could listen to endlessly all the same).
Brandi regaled us with stories. My favorite was the opportunity she had to record Caroline on her new album with Elton John. She said to the crowd, “When you meet your hero, you think you’re going to be awesome, but you’re not.” The whole way to meet him, she was wondering what he would be wearing, and he did not disappoint, showing up in hot pink sunglasses. And then – how to tell it as well as she did? – when it was time to start recording the song, he took out a case, and she froze, thinking, “This is the stuff that no one sees! He’s going to put on the glasses he needs to SEE!” And Elton John opens that case and takes out a pair of prescription hot-pink glasses.
After playing The Story, Brandi Carlile and the twins and Josh and their new drummer all came back out to play an encore – and never stopped! Okay, I exaggerate, but their encore was at least five, if not six songs. Brandi played Folsom Prison Blues for us again, but led into it with Jackson, which I already couldn’t get out of my head before the show! (Brandi Carlile, you’re in my head!) And we had a real treat when Katie Herzig and her band came out to play Wish You Well with Brandi Carlile’s crew. She finished with That Year, saying it would likely be her next single. Of the new album, I have several new favorites: notably, Before It Breaks, I Will, and If There Was No You. It’s just too bad I can’t play it for my fifth graders anymore (without tears, that is).
I look forward to the day when I can go to work in a pair of boots and a Boy Scout shirt, but until then, I’m going to take every chance I get to watch Brandi Carlile doing it.