I don't drink beer, but if I did, I'd want to have a beer with Brandi Carlile.
Brandi Carlile at the Rio Theater in Santa Cruz on June 23, 2008 equals the best show of my life. (A close second equals Patty Griffin at the Catalyst on March 17, 2007.)
The Rio Theater was the perfect venue for such occasion. For those of us that found it impossible to sit still during the performance, we stood in clusters, some pressed against the stage. Others sat behind us in theater style seats.
I found her incredibly captivating from the moment she walked out. Her on stage banter was charmingly awkward, but comfortable at the same time. She was attractively humble and gracious. I have a feeling that even in the largest of theaters, Brandi Carlile would be able to engage her audience in the same way, but at the Rio, it was 'intimate'. Others would throw out questions that she would field as if we were talking in her living room, the most appropriate cliché.
In between songs, someone asked about her next album, to which she excitedly let us know they are recording next month. Then the follow up question, "Will T-Bone produce it again?" She replied proudly, "No, we are. Together with Joe Chiccarelli." Applaud. She assumed we were applauding in acknowledgment of Chiccarelli, a Grammy award winning producer who's worked with incredible musicians including U2, Elton John, Rufus Wainwright and Tori Amos. We were applauding her. I was applauding in relief, assured that Brandi and her band plan to keep their sound organic and wholesome.
My favorite part of any show is the moment I first realize the artist is human. Brandi Carlile was human throughout, but one point in particular was my highlight. I don’t remember the context, it’s possible I was too mesmerized, but while tuning in between songs, she sang a few lines from a Shawn Colvin song. As simple as it was, a common ground was uncovered and for me, it was priceless.
I was hoping she’d play her Taylor 714ce at one point, because I, too, play a Taylor guitar. But it seems as though she’s now committed to her Acoustic Martin. I was not disappointed, however. Jealous? Yes. Of her incredible vocal control that she describes as “Technically wrong, but emotionally right.” She even yodeled at one point, another highlight, not because I love a good yodel, but because it showed the range of her musical interests and capabilities.
She played a good balance of old songs and new songs and she debated before playing her last. It was either going to be her most popular show close, Hallelujah, a Leonard Cohen ballad or Folsom Prison, a classic Johnny Cash. She decided on the latter and when she was finished I was hoping she’d start her set again from the top, but instead she thanked us for coming and met us in the lobby to sign autographs and shoot the shit.
If I could re-live the night, I would change only one thing about it. Instead of jokingly asking her to sign my friend's boobs, (which got a good laugh), I would ask instead if I could buy her a beer.