Brandi Carlile Enchants Ryman Audience
- Article by: Jamie McCormick
- Posted: 11/23/2011
On the evening of Nov. 17, the hallowed halls of The Ryman Auditorium resounded as Brandi Carlile filled the air with her stunning vocals and emotionally driven songwriting.
The Indigo Girls were originally on the bill, but had to cancel for personal reasons, so Carlile had the stage all to herself. On her first solo tour, Carlile proved more than capable, enchanting her way through a long set of new songs and back-catalog favorites.
New Orleans troubadour Grayson Capps opened the show with a set of gritty, slice-of-life songs, spiced by the occasional harmonica solo and the beat of his pounding boots. Capps supported his folky tunes by telling the stories behind them. With banjo-inspired fingerpicking and slide guitar, he harkened back to his small-town Alabama roots, and his smoky, unassuming voice made the huge room seem just a step off of his back porch. Capps rumbled, rambled and rasped through a mid-tempo musical autobiography, flavoring his folk with country, blues and just a bit of jazz. For his last song, “Give It to Me,” a bit of home-cooked, New Orleans make-you-dance music, Capps even scatted to fill in the horn parts, since no one in the crowd had a kazoo handy.
Maintaining the simple feel Capps created, Carlile stepped out with just a guitar and let her crisp, rich voice rise on the ballad “Follow,” slipping seamlessly into a soulful falsetto that is both hearty and ethereal. Switching to a grand piano for “Before it Breaks,” she kept the mid-tempo ballad rolling smoothly behind her transcendent vocals.
Since she performed solo, most of the arrangements varied slightly from her recorded versions — she said they were “how they sounded before they left my bedroom.” But all of the trills and arresting slides remained intact as she growled, crooned and belted out her timeless melodies.
Settling back onto a stool with her guitar and making a joke about finding one of Roy Orbison's songs that K.D. Lang had not already covered, Carlile eased into a piercing and delicate rendition of “It's Over,” a simple arrangement that allowed her voice to play with the melody. With another cover in honor of all of the fans who still came out despite the Indigo Girls' cancellation, Carlile took “a risk” by playing the duo's classic “Ghost,” a song by which she said she use to measure her own guitar-playing abilities. The thoughtful homage garnered shouts of” thank you” from around the auditorium.
Enhancing the hint of country that rests just on the edge of her music, Carlile brought out her band, in town for their next night Opry debut, for two full-fledged country songs recently recorded in Nashville — “Raise Hell,” a driving dance romp, and “Keep Your Heart Young,” a ballad written by her longtime guitarist Tim Hanseroth. Though a departure from her usual sound, she kept all the vocal flair and added a violin, a cello and a boot-stomping beat.
Stepping to the edge of the stage in front of the mics, Carlile said that a room like the Ryman deserves to be heard, so they would be playing the next song unplugged. With tight, sweet harmonies that managed to carry to the upper decks, they performed the bouncing tune “Dying Day.” Carlile brought out Gregory Alan Isakov for a cover of the classic, “You Belong to Me,” which led into a rendition of Patsy Cline's “Crazy” that did the old standard all the honor it deserves. Finishing with the fan-favorite “Story,” Carlile's voice sliced through a pervasive hush, which soon erupted into a roar as she left the stage.
After only a minute of overwhelming noise from the crowd, Carlile returned for five more songs, with the full band on three, including a solo-heavy extended cover of Johnny Cash's “Folsom Prison Blues” and the beautiful and touching “Pride and Joy.” She ended the encore with an unplugged take on Leonard Cohen's haunting “Hallelujah,” to which she added her own brilliant embellishments — a fitting end to a consistently astonishing, two-and-a-half-hour performance.