Brandi Carlile – Red Rocks September 2023
No one in America enjoys their job more than Brandi Carlile does. That was my thought the first time I saw her play in Denver in 2019, and it’s been reinforced every time since. The songs, the energy, the pure joy she has for performing – it’s infectious, and it carries over into the audience. Her most recent run at Red Rocks began on a postcard-perfect evening In Morrison, Colorado, and her bond with the crowd produced an effect which always seems to happen at Carlile’s shows – a cathartic experience for so many who have been “othered” far too often.
Brandy Clark opened the evening with a tight set based around her 2023 self-titled release (produced by Carlile – one fan at the show remarked that the evening should’ve been called “Brand(y)is on the Rocks, and she’s not wrong). Carlile and her longtime bandmates Tim and Phil Hanseroth (“The Twins”) began with a subdued version of 2021’s “Stay Gentle” before Carlile herself offered her take on “Over the Rainbow,” and this is where her “Bramily,” a loosely connected group of her most hardcore fans, took over the evening. Individuals went through the crowd before the show, handing out instructions, by section, on how to create a rainbow via colored cell phone images. The song turned into a show of Pride, and the singer was taken aback (in the best way possible), happily exclaiming at the end of the song, “What did you do?” It was no small feat to be able to keep that big of a secret in a group of 9,500 people.
After that uniquely stirring moment, it was on to the rock portion of the evening. “Broken Horses,” the best song off 2021’s “In These Silent Days,” kicked off a run that included “You and Me on the Rock” and the quiet-loud-quiet-LOUD “The Story” (Carlile is a Seattle-ish girl, after all). Another Carlile concert highlight is the three-part harmonies long practiced by her and the Hanseroths, best exemplified in “The Eye.”
A big part of any Brandi Carlile show is the talented roster that’s happy to travel and make music with her. SistaStrings (Chauntee and Monique Ross) fronted a small string section that punctuated heartswellers like “Right on Time.” Producer Shooter Jennings, a frequent Carlile collaborator, sat in on keyboards on several songs. Brandy Clark came out for a mini-set, including Clark’s stirring “Dear Insecurity” (word has it that Colorado’s own Gregory Alan Isakov showed up the following night for a few songs). But in true Bramily fashion, the most memorable moments belonged to Brandi’s wife and children. Catherine Shepherd (definitely the more reserved half of the couple) is absolutely no slouch in the vocal department, and she joined Carlile for a couple of songs, including the Indigo Girls’ “Closer to Fine.” And children of the touring party (with varying levels of enthusiasm) joined the band for “Hold Out Your Hand,” with 9,000-plus singing raucously along, punctuated with the line, “What a glorious sight!” And it was a glorious night, as well. “Safe space” may be a term that’s been overused and unfairly parodied, but Friday night in Morrison, everyone, at least for an evening, was gloriously free to be themselves.
Go here to check out Brandi Carlile tour dates: https://www.brandicarlile.com/tour