A ticket to a concert is a covenant between the performer and the fan: an implicit promise (and expectation) that the show will deliver a means of escape, whether it’s nostalgia, transcendence or sheer entertainment.
The best performers fulfill that promise every night. Brandi Carlile is one of them.
Thursday night, for nearly two hours, she gave about 1,000 fans at Crossroads KC an evening to remember, from the onset of her opener, the country-fried “Hard Way Home,” to the last, smoldering moment of her finale, a jail-break cover of “Folsom Prison Blues.”
Over the course of 19 songs, she showcased her latest album, “Bear Creek,” dipped into her self-titled debut, covered Radiohead (a solo/electric version of “Creep”) and Fleetwood Mac (a volcanic version of “The Chain”), brought out her opening act, the Lone Bellow, to join her on one of their songs and showed off her many musical roots and influences, from country and rock to soul. And when she wasn’t seated at the piano, she was spinning and jumping and dancing around stage, like a young girl at her own birthday party. All that energy and enthusiasm and exuberance was contagious; it kept the crowd engaged all night.
She is woefully under-appreciated for her voice, which is as agile as it is powerful, and her songwriting. In ballads and anthems, she writes primarily about heartache and loss, at times devastatingly so. She also brings along a stout band, featuring twin brothers Tim and Phil Hanseroth (guitar, bass), cellist Josh Neumann (who turned his cello into a bass during “Have You Ever”) and a utility man, Jeb Bows, who played pedal steel, banjo, lead and rhythm guitar and, during “A Promise to Keep,” a Dobro that once belonged to Carlile’s great-grandfather.
There were many highlights: “Keep Your Heart Young,” a clever country song about sustaining the child within, written by the Hanseroth brothers, the co-stars of the show; the cover of “The Chain,” which erupted into a stormy instrumental twice; “What Can I Say,” which ignited the first feverish response of the night; “That Wasn’t Me;” and “The Story,” her signature anthem, which got the loudest of many sing-alongs all night.
She told stories about her songs and her bandmates, thanked the crowd, the city and the venue several times and acted as pleased as anyone in the place to be there. She ended with her tribute to Johnny Cash, one of her heroes. She and her band turned it into something ecstatic and liberating, sending home a big crowd with the kind of satisfaction you feel when you get more than what you bargained for.
The Lone Bellow: They’re a trio from New York that fuses country, folk, gospel and soul into a sound that is instantly appealing, especially the three-part harmonies, and a live show that is loaded with charm and energy. Their cover of John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery” was refreshingly unique. They made lots of fans and friends this evening.