Review: Brandi Carlile @ Stubb’s

Yes, Brandi Carlile killed it at Stubb’s on Saturday. She slayed it. Completely pulverized all artists before and after her at the outdoor stage.

brandi carlile

Brandi Carlile

Side note: Fuuuuuuuuck the outdoor stage at Stubb’s in summer in Austin before the sun’s gone down. Come on, dudes. They need a few more fans out there or something because there’s nothing less agonizing than standing at a sold out show for 4 hours with the tickle of sweat running down the crevice of your back and continually getting stuck (literally stuck) to the person beside you because bare clammy skin immediately sticks to any other bare clammy skin it comes into contact with and then you have to turn to that person and be like, “Hey…stranger,” and unstick yourself. Plus, any performance situation where part of security’s job is to distribute cups of water to the audience to keep them from passing out is probably a situation that could use a few more fans and maybe a mister or two. Just saying, Stubb’s.

Side side-note: How awesome is it that security will fetch you a cup of water at Stubb’s to keep you from passing out but also so that you don’t lose your place in the crowd?

Anderson East.

Carlile’s opener was Anderson East, a man who sings like he’s the son of a preacher, you know? A really great voice and good presence, much like an aw-shucks Southern boy who still can’t believe his good luck that he’s living in Nashville and making a living as a musician. I like that. His sound was like a blues/rock combo, but with some definite soul vibes. There’s so much genre-jumping these days and it’s awesome. Also, any guy who apologizes about how sweaty he is by calling it a “transference of love” is okay by me. We were all transferring a lot of love Saturday night. Over the next several months, he’s touring with Carlile, plus opening for The John Butler Trio for several dates as well as The Lone Bellow, so he must be doing good things.

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Brandi Carlile started playing about 9.15 to a sold out crowd, which was fantastic, because I so desperately want artists whom I like to be well-liked by others (I may be the opposite of those people ((“hipsters”?)) who stops liking someone when they get popular, because when other people love what I love I feel like it reinforces the fact that I have really good taste in music). Carlile noted how incredibly awesome it was to be the headliner on the outdoor stage at Stubb’s, which is legitimately a pretty cool thing in Austin.

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Speaking of sold out shows, yes, it was crowded. Not like, insane, but crowded in the appropriate way for a sold out show. If you’ve ever been to a crowded, general admission show, you know there are dicks who will try to push their way forward, even though they’ve arrived much later than the people who are standing much closer. And people will generally let them push forward, because most people aren’t dicks. If you go to shows by yourself, it’s generally easier to weave your way through the crowd till you get to an acceptable spot, plus you can always try to shuffle forward a bit during the break between acts when people disperse for drinks, which I think is totally legit and doesn’t make you a dick at all (I think you can tell I do both of these things regularly). But hilariously enough, after I expertly weaved my way pretty close to the stage, I ended up standing next to a group of 4-5 people who took it upon themselves to be the “No Pushing Forward” patrol. So we were standing center, maybe about 8 rows of people back, and anytime anyone tried to pass, they were like, “Oh, where are you going? Do you have friends up there? Because it’s a sold out show, you know. Yeah, we were here first.” But here was the problem with that (other than just being audibly annoying): most of the time people actually had gone to get drinks and were returning to their original spots where their companions were, hence the three beers they were carrying. And the people who were legit pushing through just to get close to the front? Well, we already know that they’re dicks and generally dicks really couldn’t care less about what you think. So really, these people trying to chastise others were kind of being dicks themselves. Like, I get it, you want to world to be fair. That would be awesome! But unless you’re actually stopping them, you’re just being annoying too, because dicks don’t care when you call them out for being dicks. And their biggest response to anyone who ignored them or pushed past anyway (which was everyone) was a sarcastic, “OH, OKAY THEN. YOU GO ON AND ENJOY THE SHOW. HAVE A GREEEEEAAAAT NIGHT.” Apparently they didn’t notice me roll up halfway through the opening act and duck my way through empty pockets between people till I ended up beside them.

Anyway, the show was amazing. Carlile killed it. The musicianship was extraordinary and Carlile’s voice was as remarkable as it is on her albums – incredibly emotive and expressive and powerful, all from such a small package – despite the fact that she said she’d had laryngitis the week before and had to cancel a couple of shows.

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What I particularly liked about her performance is that she encouraged people to sing along. I think she realizes that they type of music she writes – wonderfully personal and emotional lyrics; catchy, reproducible hooks – is going to appeal to people (like me) who just can’t help it. People like the whole Brandi Carlile package because she’s such a distinct character and artist, and we want to sing along. I’M SORRY GUY STANDING NEXT TO ME I HAVE TO SING. And I think it’s awesome to not only not fight against that, but actively encourage it. It also must be really cool in a way as an artist to hear lyrics and songs that you’ve written being sung back to you by a crowd of hundreds.

The show and band were incredibly tight – she’s been playing with the same people (most notably Tim and Phil Hanseroth) since she was a teenager. Her new album, The Firewatcher’s Daughter, has more of a rock sound than her previous work, but it still works exceptionally well for her; her voice is definitely suited to it. Plus, she had this really bad-ass move where on the final chord of the bigger songs the stage would just go dark and it was like, “BAM. SONG OVER.” So simple and so cool. Overall there was a great mix of her newer, harder rock songs, singles from her earlier albums, arrangements with the cello, guitar and ukulele, and really melodic three-part harmonies with the guys on stage. She noted at one point in the show that yes, she has a lot of songs about mistakes and regrets, but without regrets there would be no music, and there would also be no one to sing it. That sums up a lot of Carlile’s music right there.

Setlist for Brandi Carlile, 6/6/15:

  1. The Stranger at My Door
  2. The Story (“I want ya’ll to sing along on this one.”)
  3. Hard Way Home
  4. The Eye
  5. That Wasn’t Me
  6. Dreams
  7. Again Today
  8. The Things I Regret
  9. Beginning to Feel the Years
  10. 100
  11. Keep Your Heart Young
  12. I Belong to You
  13. Wherever is Your Heart
  14. Mainstream Kid
  15. Raise Hell
  16. That Year
  17. Turpentine (Carlile actually took the time to set up a 3 part harmony from the audience on this one for the background)

Encore

  1. The Chain (A Fleetwood Mac cover. I think the band had more fun with this one than any other song that night.)
  2. Murder in the City

Check out Anderson East’s upcoming tour dates here.

Check out Brandi Carlile’s upcoming tour dates here.

Brandi Carlile performed outdoors at Stubb’s on June 6th, 2015.

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