sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

June 15, 2019

brandi carlisle
posted by soe 1:20 am

For my birthday back in February, Rudi gave me concert tickets to see Brandi Carlisle this summer at Merriweather Post Pavilion amphitheater. This was before my car’s terminal diagnosis and Columbia is not easily accessible without one, so I’ve been a little stressed about how we were going to get up there. Luckily, Sarah kindly came to our rescue earlier this week with the offer to borrow her car for the night.

Rudi at Merriweather Post's Skydeck

It’s been a couple years since Rudi and I last saw a show out there and things have changed significantly. They’ve developed the area around the park and built more formal parking areas (as opposed to grassy fields) outside the venue and built an addition inside. They’ve added box seats at a mezzanine level and then above that built additional lawn seating they’re calling the skydeck. That new section offers 100-200 general audience members the chance to watch from a sodded-over balcony. We sat up there for the opening act, Lucius, a quartet of two male instrumentalists and two female singers who harmonize beautifully around a single mic (and who favor unusual matching costumes). I wasn’t familiar with their work, but I love vocal harmonies, so Rudi correctly guessed I’d enjoy them. In addition to doing their own songs, they covered “A Dream Is a Song Your Heart Makes” and Prince’s “Purple Rain” quite admirably.


Between the opening and main acts, we procured some refreshments and found our ticketed seats (while today was a gorgeous night for an outdoor show, we have experienced some doozies of thunderstorms from the lawn, which is not especially fun and who can tell the weather four months in advance?). Rudi, knowing my sometimes panicked reactions to crowded venues and a lack of personal space (my favorite GA spot is against the very back wall), found us the perfect seats — two of a tiny four-seat row next to a pillar — but with great sightlines. I have never felt so seen.

Brandi Carlisle

While I certainly knew the name Brandi Carlisle, was pretty sure I’d seen her as an opening act, and own her last album, I wasn’t sure you’d describe me as a fan. I mean, I couldn’t sing along with her songs, I thought. I was incorrect. I knew plenty of her songs, including “The Mother,” about her doubts after her first daughter was born; “The Story,” a love song that was featured heavily during the 2008 Olympics; and “The Joke,” about being yourself and living your best life.

She shared the stage with twin brothers, Phil and Tim Hanseroth, with whom she writes her songs and who provide backing harmonies and strings, as well as a drummer, a pianist/keyboardist/French horn player, and a trio of string players (two cellists and a viola player). They captured a broad range of music together — thoughtful and rocking, personal and transcendent. And all while Carlisle’s soaring voice ties it all together with an intimate bow.

Carlisle marveled throughout her set how amazing it was to see so many people here to see her. She had to take a moment to compose herself early in the set, saying you always think you know what it’s going to feel like. She assured the audience that she was especially grateful because she knew that so many acts would give anything to experience the sight and that she’d never take it for granted.

She finished her main set and her planned encore, and it was obvious people were expecting the evening to conclude there. But then Carlisle walked back out on stage alone with her acoustic guitar for one final song. “A special night called for a special song,” she said. She began to play and quickly asked people to pull out their cell phones to light up the night sky:

It was a very nice birthday (plus four months) present.

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