On a clear and warm Wednesday night at Woodland Park Zoo, avid KEXP supporter Brandi Carlile played before her second sold-out crowd in as many nights. Obviously energized by performing in her home town, she wowed the audience while moving between stomping Americana and bluesy ballads with ease.
The harmony duo Secret Sisters opened the show with an intimate 30-minute set. Supporting their upcoming album produced by Brandi Carlile, the sisters delivered sweet harmonies and solid, self-proclaimed songs of tragedy interspersed with intimate stories. Truly in awe of opening Brandi, a friend for whom they sang at her wedding, The Secret Sisters left me wanting more.
After a short break, Brandi immediately lit up the place with the two rousing stompfests “Raise Hell” and “Hard Way Home”, both from her Bear Creek album. Backed by her two guitarists, twins Phil and Tim Hanseroth, she got the crowd on their feet, enthusiastically clapping and singing along.
As she waved at friends and family and handed guitar picks to kids in the front, Brandi launched into “Wherever Your Heart” from her latest album. Knowing shows at the Zoo have to be over by 8:30, Brandi got standing cheers when she asked “Do you think the Zoo will let me go Bruce Springsteen tonight and play for 3 ½ hours?” While that wasn’t going to happen, we were treated with an hour and a half of spirited music from a John Denver cover of “Country Road” to Dolly Parton sing-a-long “Heart Young”. We got an exciting wash board and percussion jam on “Dying Day” from her 2009 album Give Up the Ghosts.
Next up she told a story of going to the Grammy’s last year with dresses in plastic bags “so they could be returned after the awards” and joining Bonnie Raitt for an Eagles tribute after which Brandi and the band played “Peaceful Easy Living”.
In spite of playing in front of 5,000 people, the evening felt intimate as Brandi brought everyone into her world with personal stories and spirited songs. She shared her feelings about the complexities and sacrifices of motherhood with “The Mother”, a song about raising her daughter Evangeline.
Finally, we got the anthem “The Story” from 2007, the clap-along “Mainstream Kid” and show-ending Johnny Cash classic “Folsom Prison Blues” joined on harp by Brandi’s brother Jay Carlile who lit it up with Tim’s guitar challenges.
For an encore, Brandi hit the stage and divided up the crowd for 3-part harmonies on “Turpentine”. Blazing in purple light and sporting a cello opening, Brandi killed it with Led Zeppelin’s “Going to California” complete with the reverb-drenched refrain before bringing out The Secret Sisters to wrap up the show with an acapella rendition of “Amazing Grace”.
The show could have gone on all night as Brandi carried the evening with her powerful voice, charm and spirit. All in all, this was a memorable performance and everyone left happy.