On the subject of epic, once-in-a-lifetime musical extravaganzas of the cancer-curing variety, I just wanted to throw my two pesos in the pot.
Thinking back on it, I really think that the tour poster really sold the whole ordeal pretty short. I think that if I had been in charge of the marketing effort, it easily would have featured Brandi and Katie on jetpacks, effortlessly escaping an enormous 50-megaton nuclear blast, each with a bundle of sleepy puppies under one arm and a wide-eyed orphan child under the other. Around them would have featured proclamations of their near-divinity in a bold, mid-century typeface, evoking the classic Science Fiction films of days past.
It would have been glorious. And 100 percent true.
I spent the entire evening feeling as though I were being whisked away to a magical fantasy land from the horrors of the outside world by a pair of jetpack-wearing super-heroines. I’m not sure if I was one of the puppies or a wide-eyed orphan, but I think you get where I’m going with this.
I think that the big question mark hanging over the lead-up to the show was in regards to the vocals holding up. We all know about studio trickery and being the pragmatist that I am, I wondered if in fact they’d be able to live up to the standards set forth by immaculate studio recordings. I think that any apprehension that I had was soundly up-slapped when Katie unloaded Songbird on the poor, unsuspecting audience. She was above perfection, doing things that I can only describe as vocally acrobatic, in some instances, out-doing her work on the album. That, folks, is real talent.
I think that a lot of artists are content to wander out on stage, plow through a decidedly average set of songs and call it a night. Sometimes, it’s like listening to an album, except of course you’ve been standing for three hours and you’re wondering if that wonderful stench of pot and body-odor will ever wash out of your clothes. I’ve had way too many of those kinds of concert-going experiences, and frankly, I’m sick of it. It’s just not worth it. I am very, very happy to report that this is not one of those kinds of tours. You won’t be thinking about your feet, because you’ll forget that you even have feet. It’s an experience like that.
I have a confession to make: once Katie was finished, I thought that there was a slight possibility she may have ended up upstaging THE Brandi Carlile. And then, as if Brandi herself had evolved into a higher order of mind-reading super-humans, she read my mind. Almost, as if laughing to herself at my thought that she could be upstaged, she and her band walked out and performed a quasi-acapella rendition of Oh Dear. There aren’t many times I’ve experienced a performance that instantly silenced a crowd, but this was definitely one of them. Let’s just say that I’d been served a platter of crow and her glance in my direction seemed to suggest a ‘Get eating, buddy!‘ thought. Rightly so, Ms. Carlile. Rightly so.
Even though she looked exhausted, she evaded the temptation to play a straight set, opting instead to mix it up in a surprising way. Full-on rock-out? Check. Intimate ‘un-plugged’ set? Check. A completely un-micced tune which turned the entire audience into puddles of mush? Check and check. There really wasn’t any ground she didn’t cover, excellent takes on the originals and a very tasteful batch of covers. The coup-de-grace had to be when she invited Katie and her band back on stage for what I can only describe as an Arcade Fire-esque rendition of Katie’s Wish You Well. How do I mean? Well, it wasn’t just that there were eleven people on stage, it also had to do with the multiple people banging on drums, high-energy string playing, powerful vocals and just a plain energy that you just don’t see very often. After having gone back and listened to the album version of this song, it just doesn’t carry the same kind of weight it did at the show. Thanks, guys. I freaking loved that song, and now I can’t listen to it without thinking of Brandi and Katie singing their brains out on a shared mic, everyone having a great time. Pure magic, folks.
After the show, we hung out at the merch table and had a chat with Katie and the ladies. I never really know what to say in those situations, because really, you don’t want to come off like a slobbering fanboy, right? Usually that means that my foot ends up in my mouth. I am happy to report that we behaved ourselves, got a great photo and autographs out of it, and we couldn’t have been any happier. We made our way around back just as Brandi was making her way through the small crowd that had developed. We had a brief exchange, tickets were signed and hands were shaken. I told her that the show was really above-and-beyond, and how much we appreciated that. Like I mentioned, she looked exhausted the whole time, but it never once dragged the show down. In fact, it’s almost like she’d hit her 10th wind and it pushed her even harder. That seriously impressed me.
I know there are only a few dates left, but if you’re on the fence about going, just stop thinking about it and go. These ladies and their top-notch bands are class-acts and it’s a bit of a moral imperative to support acts like this. Unless of course you have an aversion towards jetpacks, awesomeness, freedom and all that is good about the world. You know, like some people do.
As a side note (and I know that Adam briefly touched on it), Katie has a new live album that she’s made available on her website as a pay-as-you-wish download (or free, if you refer five friends). I know this is going to come as a huge shock, but please jump on this. I’m a huge supporter of this kind of approach, and I’m glad they’re trying it out. Bravo, Ms. Herzig!