Brandi Carlile Fires Up the Palladium with Grammy-Week Performance Carlile and her band know how to raise hell, and raise your spirits
HOLLYWOOD, CA- Just two days after wrapping a six-night stand at the famed Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Brandi Carlile brought a lively pre-Grammy performance to the Hollywood Palladium on Jan. 23 as a part of the Citi Sound Vault series, which also included nights with Brittany Howard, Coldplay and the Jonas Brothers.
The most nominated woman at the 2019 Grammys, Carlile enters the new year as an artist at the top of her game: a skillful songwriter, a powerhouse vocalist and an engaging performer. At her side, as always, were the equally dynamic Tim and Phil Hanseroth — to fans, known simply as The Twins — and a full band, including a small but vital string section. Together, they’re electric, a joyful band that clearly loves playing music with each other as much as they love simply playing music, period.
Opening with the foot-stomping “Hold Out Your Hand,” Carlile put together a setlist that drifted seamlessly between high-energy hits and moving ballads, weaving them together with easy storytelling. She leaned into country twang with “Raise Hell,” threw herself into a cover of Elton John’s “Madman Across the Water” and highlighted her folk roots — and the role the Hanseroth twins play in those roots.
“I don’t know if you know what was going on in Seattle in the late ’90s, but it wasn’t this [music],” Carlile said. The twins were already in a rock band playing Seattle clubs while she was a busking folk singer. “I was sneaking into shows and they were really cool to me. I’ll never forget the first night we got together, heard our voices make a complete chord for the first time and realized we were a three-part harmony.”
Soon after, she gathered all the “old, shitty guitars” she’d collected, including one her mom found in the bushes at a casino, which she kept around with the thought that she’d become a luthier and fix them all one day.
“I loaded them all in the back of my 1993 Toyota SR5 pickup and drove them all down to the Trading Musician, and I sold every one of them for two microphones. I told these guys that if we could be in a band together, we would make it.”
They launched into “The Eye,” a three-part harmony that Carlile described as a song in their “native tongue,” and one she wants to sing so everyone will know that “either one of these two dudes could front this band, or any band, any given day.”
She also shared stories about her wife’s dry British humor and her oldest daughter Evangeline, who she described as both her “best friend and arch rival.”
“She started that shit the day she was born to two mothers on Father’s Day,” she joked. Evangeline is “basically a Republican,” she added, a 6-year-old who said she was thankful for freedom when they went around the Thanksgiving table last year. The stories only served to make her performance of “The Mother” more poignant, and the crowd listened with unusually complete silence as she sang of how she came to love being a mother more than any of the independence she traded when she did.
Carlile wrapped the main set with a dive back to 2009’s “Pride and Joy” and closed the night with their heaviest rock song, “Mainstream Kid,” followed by a lovely showcase for the string section, “Party of One.”
The Palladium show, and more specifically its connection to Grammy week, caps a year in which it’s been good to be Brandi Carlile. Taking home three Grammys in 2019, Carlile grabbed the greater public’s attention during the telecast with her performance of “The Joke,” an anthem for the marginalized and an arresting display of the grace and grit unique to her voice.
She was nominated at last weekend’s awards, too, this time for a duet with Maren Morris and her work co-producing and co-writing Tanya Tucker’s While I’m Livin’, a project that resulted in Tucker’s first Grammys.
In the 12 months between those two nights, Carlile formed the Highwomen supergroup, performed with Dolly Parton at the Newport Folk Festival, reached her $1 million fundraising goal for Children in Conflict through her Looking Out Foundation and paid tribute to Joni Mitchell — in front of the icon herself — by covering her seminal album Blue from start to finish at the Walt Disney Concert Hall.
“I had to get hypnotized, I was so nervous,” Carlile said about the Blue show. “It’s given me a whole new belief in my voice. It’s pretty goddamn hard to sing Joni Mitchell in front of Joni Mitchell. She doesn’t suffer fools.”
She then segued into “A Case of You,” offering a sliver of the Disney Hall show. As the Joni cover Carlile has incorporated into her set the most, it’s also easily her strongest, and the one she cherishes most. She called it one of the top three songs ever written, alongside — in no particular order — Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You.”
It was a standout moment, and it affirmed why Carlile is a special sort of artist. At a time when she seems to have the golden touch, to see her live is to witness her constantly redirect the spotlight away from herself and lift up others, from artists who paved the way to artists she feels deserve more recognition, to the Hanseroth twins, to those who feel looked over and left out. There’s something in knowing that, both in song and in action, Brandi Carlile is firmly in the corner of anyone who’s ever felt the joke’s been on them.