Brandi Carlile isn’t a political singer per se, but she isn’t shy about singing and speaking openly and candidly about the issues that affect her life. That’s one reason she has developed a large following of devout fans who attend her shows and sing along with gusto to her tuneful, heartfelt anthems about love and heartache and life’s other rewards and tribulations.
Wednesday night, more than 1,500 fans at Crossroads KC withstood a mid-June swelter to listen to 90 minutes of Carlile’s music, which included covers of songs by Bruce Springsteen, Prince and Led Zeppelin.
She and her band opened with “Again Today,” a song about heartache and isolation, then “Raise Hell,” another anthem about a fractured romance: “I dug a hole inside my heart / To put you in your grave.”
Carlile’s voice is strong, agile and expressive, a mix of soul and power that suits her songs, most of which are turbocharged rock and folk anthems. Her band includes longtime members Tim Hanseroth (guitar) and Phil Hanseroth (bass), twin brothers who add harmonies to most of her songs.
Before they performed “The Eye,” a song that uses a hurricane as a metaphor for love, Carlile professed that the three had been influenced heavily by Crosby, Stills and Nash and Fleetwood Mac and that “The Eye” was their attempt at those acts’ pristine, perfect three-part harmonies. Mission accomplished.
Her music style bounces from one genre to another. “Hard Way Home” was infused with a country vibe, sounding like something the Dixie Chicks might record. So was “Keep Your Heart Young.” During that song, Carlile brought onstage a young girl to sing along to part of the song, and the young lady nailed it. “That Wasn’t Me” swung like a gospel tune. “The Things I Regret” was a foot-stomping folk-rock anthem. The buoyant “Dying Day” was adorned with a cowbell and a washboard. “Mainstream Kid” was a gritty and greasy blues number.
One of the more touching songs was “The Mother,” an ode to the 2-year-old daughter Carlile is raising with her wife, Catherine Shepherd. (They all dined at Fritz’s, the train-themed restaurant, earlier in the day, she told the crowd.) The song is a devotional to being a mother and to raising a child in a same-sex marriage. It is one of her better songs lyrically.
She covered Springsteen’s “Born to Run” respectably and Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” adequately. In the encore, she brought out opener Greg Holden to sing one of his songs, “Boys in the Street,” an evocative folk song about the strained and estrange relationship between a father and his gay son, which is eventually reconciled at the father’s death bed. Carlile sang harmonies and accompanied Holden on piano.
After that, Carlile addressed the crowd. Without mentioning the massacre last weekend at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., she preached about the need to “be brave” and continue on with life and not “change the way we live.” Then she and her band played Led Zeppelin’s “Going to California,” which includes a line that resonated and summed up much of the night: “Standing on a hill in my mountain of dreams / Telling myself it's not as hard, hard, hard as it seems.”
Again Today, Raise Hell, Wherever Is Your Heart, Hard Way Home, The Eye, That Wasn’t Me, Late Morning Lullaby, The Things I Regret, Keep Your Heart Young, Hiding My Heart, Dying Day, The Mother, Born to Run, The Story, Mainstream Kid, Pride and Joy, Nothing Compares 2 U, Boys in the Street (with Greg Holden), Going to California