Dec 2, 2011

Brandi Carlile, the Secret Sisters, and Zach Heckendorf at Park West on 12/1/11

6 guitars and a grand piano

Brandi, even dressed in androgenous fashion, looked fantastic. Her video below gives you a peak at her feminine side.

This song, "That Year" was the most powerful and emotional song of the night (the video police were out in full force and on me like a cheap suit so I was unable to capture this one live). Brandi sings about forgiving a friend of hers that committed suicide when Brandi was 16 years old:

This is my 3rd time seeing Brandi and she impresses me more and more each time. I had the benefit of last seeing her at Schubas and I almost forgot to breathe during much of her performance (as it was and continues to be breathtaking). In particular, she sang a completely heart wrenching version of "The Story" with vocals that were out of the stratosphere that night. Being in the same small music venue/room with Brandi is nothing short of magical. She asked the audience at Park West if they had been to the Schubas show a couple of times. This led me to believe that she prefers performing in a small intimate venue and those shows personally stick with her. She likely remembers her otherworldly version of "The Story" from that night and wonders who else witnessed it. Another song she can sing better than anyone is "Hallelujah" which she sadly did not perform during this show. Tonight she started her set with "Follow" and throughout the evening seamlessly weaving stories and banter as she moved from guitar (one of 6 placed elegantly on stage) to piano to microphone, thanking the audience for their approval after each song. This was her first solo acoustic show in a long time and a real treat to hear her voice in its purist form once again. Although the ParkWest venue is big for an acoustic show, Brandi was more than fine with her command of the stage and voice. Her timing for talking and performing was impeccable. This was a show that I wish I had taken notes. I think I was covered though because a Chicago Tribune music reviewer (Bob Gendron) was taking copious notes right in front of me. To read his review click here.

You are asking, "how did you know he was a reviewer"? So, there is a relatively grown-up man, sitting alone at a table, with pencil and pad on said table. He is either A) a Geek, B) Super Fanatic Fan, C) Music Reviewer, or D) All or Some of the above. So I asked him which category he fit into (coyly, "excuse me but are you writing a set list"?). He said C and maybe a bit of B (because you cannot have ever seen Brandi and not be a super fanatic fan afterwards). Funny side story: my husband (my date for the show) commented that being a reviewer was the reason that two attractive women later showed up and sat at his table. I commented that this was, after all, a Brandi Carlile (talented, smart, and gorgeous lesbian) show and there was a substantially higher probability that they were not interested in him romantically, regardless of his writing or other talents. If you get my drift. Sorry Bob.

Other notable musical moments of the evening including Brandi sitting at the piano to sing a cover of Damien Rice's "Cannonball" and later standing before her sold out crowd to sing Patsy Cline's "Crazy". Brandi recently toured with Damien Rice and they played at Millenium Park last summer. I was personally most excited to hear that Brandi would be opening for him but alas could not make the free fantabulous show downtown. Brandi also worked herself up to sing "Bohemian Rhapsody" after the two attractive ladies sitting with above mentioned reporter, yelled out the request. Brandi likes a challenge! She also stood in front of the audience to sing without a mic to have a more intimate, unencumbered moment, with her adoring fans. Her vocals were fantastic as were the acoustics this evening. It is difficult to describe her style or genre because she throws a bit of jazz, old style country, bluegrass, folk, rock, all and some of he above into her mix. Her range is ridiculous and she changes her octave with a flip of her internal switch. You have to see it to believe it.

Brandi has a great personality and can naturally tell a story and chat with the audience. One story in particular got a good laugh from the crowd. Apparently, some time ago, Brandi had just finished performing at an indoor music festival and was hurriedly trying to get to the merch table to help sell records and t-shirts post-gig. On the way, someone stopped her to ask "if she would take a photo". Brandi, at that time believing that it was "all about her", begrudgingly agreed to pose for the asked for photo-op. She assumed a posed position by placing her arms around the two people asking for the photo and waited for the flash. At this point Brandi said to us at the Park West, "you know where this is going right"? Turns out they wanted her to take a photo of them (not realizing her celebrity). Brandi remarked that of course these humbling experiences have their purpose.

The night ended with Brandi singing "Amazing Grace" with her opening act, Secret Sisters, in complete darkness and without the aid of a microphone. Too fabulous for ummm, words. Tonight she has another sold out show at SPACE in Evanston. For anyone going to THAT show you are lucky dogs. Her new album will be out in April. Yes album because she produces both albums and CDs - "CDs (she joked) are for fans that do not have turntables in their cars". The show gets a 5 out of 5 guitar rating (she is perfect). If you get a chance to see her, even if it means getting in your car and driving to another state or flying there, do so.

A piece of advice about the Park West: get there when the doors open for a sold out show if you want a seat. We got VERY lucky and sat center stage just behind the floor level. I called ahead to find out if there would be tables or standing room on the floor and was incorrectly told that it was to be standing room. This greatly impacts chair availability. Once you purchase tickets however, you can pay $15 for a table for 2 or $30 for a table for 4. Can be worth it if you do not want to get to the show early.

Opening Acts: The Secret Sisters - 1940's and 1950's inspired country sound

This 23 and 25 year old sister duo are a talented pair who were raised in Alabama on a steady diet of "Bluegrass" and have been mentored by T-Bone Burnett, Elvis Costello, and Jakob Dylan.

Zack Heckendorf

A pleasant surprise at 7:15pm (before official show time) was Zach. He sounds (exactly) like Donovan Frankenreiter/Jack Johnson and has Jason Mraz moments of wordplay. This is a highly skilled and polished singer-songwriter on his way up.

Check him out here sounding like Mraz...

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