The confession arrived early.
“I spent the last two days taking care of my body so I could sing for you guys tonight,” Brandi Carlile told the sold-out House of Blues Friday (she canceled a show in Tulsa, Okla. Wednesday, citing an attack of laryngitis).
The singer-songwriter’s announcement was greeted, predictably, by a rousing, enthusiastic cheer, but even the audience’s near-palpable goodwill wasn’t quite enough to assuage the 34-year-old’s doubts about her voice’s strength.
Not long after her first aside, she offered a second, surprisingly vulnerable admission: “Nothing’s worse than watching a singer who’s sure of themselves all the time. Tonight, I’m not too sure of myself, singing-wise. There’s beauty and excitement in that for me.”
Such an observation proved to be not only an understatement, but also a succinct description of her 110-minute performance, marking a return trip to DFW nearly six months to the day after playing KXT 91.7 FM’s fifth birthday bash at Verizon Theatre in December.
Brandi Carlile’s worst night is still better than many musicians’ best.
Touring behind her recently released LP, The Firewatcher’s Daughter, Carlile spent much of Friday flanked on a sparely dressed stage by her long-time collaborators, twins Phil and Tim Hanseroth, drummer Brian Griffin and cellist/pianist Josh Newman. (She was also joined, briefly, by a pair of children who eagerly shouted along with Keep Your Heart Young.)
Carlile initially seemed hesitant to hit some of the bigger notes, but, ultimately, didn’t flinch from the challenge — whether it was the lilting, delicate falsetto of That Year, the dramatic climax of her breakout single The Story or the throat-shredding finale of Mainstream Kid, Carlile was only too happy to give everything she had.
The troubadour, whose harmonies with the Hanseroths remain breathtaking, also frequently stunned the somewhat chatty crowd into silence: The Eye, Beginning to Feel the Years, I Belong to You and That Year all stilled side conversations, turning the House of Blues, however momentarily, into an ersatz cathedral.
Carlile spoke movingly of her struggles with her religious upbringing prior to performing That Year, a song touching upon the suicide of a high school classmate and how, through what she described as “the transcendence of love,” she sought forgiveness for having judged the young man who took his own life.
Such a sentiment dovetailed nicely with the overall feeling in the air, a sense of generosity and faith.
That willingness to be patient with a struggling musician — one caught in a moment of uncertainty before an audience of a couple thousand — was tantamount to a leap of faith, as one could reasonably characterize most musical performances.
But this night, as those gathered plunged into the unknown together, the cumulative effect was more or less just as Carlile anticipated: a revelatory, emotionally charged evening, brimming with beauty and excitement.
Preston Jones, 817-390-7713