An adoring audience stood in ovation for Brandi Carlile Saturday night at the Arlington before she had sung a single note. The enthusiastic welcome set the tone for a show marked by a strong rapport between concertgoers and performers. The latter included Carlile’s mainstays, twin brothers Phil and Tim Hanseroth, and her cadre of strings, piano, and drum backers.
The show focused on tracks from this year’s By the Way, I Forgive You, widely acclaimed as a great Americana/roots album. Perhaps part of what makes it exemplary in that category right now is, as Carlile explained in her introduction to “Sugartooth” — a tale of drug addiction — the artist’s “debilitating empathy” since becoming a parent. Her heartfelt sense that such empathy is particularly painful yet necessary in this American moment came through in each song she prefaced, from “Fulton County Jane Doe,” about a real-life woman whose corpse was never identified, to her reflections on growing into parental love as a woman partnered with another woman in “The Mother.” But the standout performance was the Joni Mitchell–inspired “Party of One,” for which Carlile took to the piano.
The Arlington’s sound system came through for Carlile, highlighting the gut-punching vocals for which she’s known — her balance between tough and tender, punctuated with melodramatic breaks into the upper reaches of her range. Drawing on the venue’s unique attributes during the encore, she and the Hanseroth brothers serenaded the audience with “Beginning to Feel the Years” from the box area above stage left.
Opening strings-only quartet Darlingside charmed the crowd with its warm vocal harmonies and wry commentary. Comparable to Fleet Foxes with the stage presence of a college a cappella group, the four even threw in a vocals-only rendition of Neil Young’s “Red Sun.” They returned to the stage with Carlile’s band as backing vocalists for “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man,” what Carlile called “our best waif-y white-person” tribute to Aretha Franklin. The show was pensive yet lively, sincere without ever taking itself too seriously.
(1) “Every Time I Hear That Song” (By the Way, I Forgive You)
(2) “Raise Hell” (Bear Creek)
(3) “Harder to Forgive” (BTW)
(4) “The Eye” (The Firewatcher’s Daughter)
(5) “The Mother” (BTW)
(6) “The Joke” (BTW)
(7) “Have You Ever” (The Story)
(8) “Sugartooth” (BTW)
(9) “Dreams” (Give Up the Ghost)
(10) “Fulton County Jane Doe” (BTW)
(11) “Madman Across the Water” (Elton John)
(12) “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” (Aretha Franklin)
(13) “The Story” (TS)
(14) “Party of One” (BTW)
Encore from Arlington Box Seats:
(15) “Beginning to Feel the Years” (FD)
(16) “Hold Out Your Hand” (BTW)
(17) “That Wasn’t Me” (BC)