Brandi Carlile has built an audience of die-hard lovers of her rootsy folk-rock through her constant touring, and it's been a blast to see her develop from a club-sized opener to a headliner capable of selling out a venue like Red Butte Garden.
She's also a regular presence on the Salt Lake City concert calendar, so the real reason I traipsed up the hill to the Red Butte amphitheater Sunday night wasn't for another dose of Carlile--which certainly proved worthwhile, as you'll see below--but to scope out the opening buzz-band The Lone Bellow (pictured).
The trio has a sound that you definitely wouldn't peg for Brooklyn. Based in the intricate harmonies between its three members--guitarist/singers Zach Williams and Brian Elmquist, along with mandolin player/singer Kanene Pipkin--and featuring more than a dash of countrified twang, The Lone Bellow's indie self-titled debut has garnered some rapturous reviews. And after seeing them do their thing live, there's no reason to think they can't grow into a headlining act themselves.
From their own stomping, energetic "Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold" to a winning cover of "Angel from Montgomery," the trio delivered a strong set that left them sweat-soaked and got some in the crowd of Carlile fans on their feet and dancing by the end. Strong versions of "You Don't Love Me Like You Used To," "The One You Should've Let Go" and "Teach Me to Know" rounded out a solid opening stint. I generally prefer my country with a little more grit, and The Lone Bellow certainly is more slick than rootsy, but there was no denying the harmonies between the three members.
Carlile and her band delivered a rock-solid show, as we've come to expect from the singer from her past visits. Delving into material from each of her albums, Carlile had the crowd on its feet immediately with her opening blast of songs including "Hard Way Home," "Raise Hell" and "Have You Ever?"
Noting that Red Butte Garden is one of her favorite tour stops helped ingratiate Carlile to the crowd--that that she needed to worry about it, because the sold-out show was packed with her people, ready to sing along and dance. "What Can i Say," "How These Days Grow Long" and "Dreams"--abetted by amazing harmonies from her bandmates and songwriting partners Tim and Phil Hanseroth--all hit their mark. Same goes for her stark solo, acoustic cover of Radiohead's "Creep."
When Carlile's full band was on stage, the mix of guitars, banjo and cello were the perfect bed for Carlile's pliable, strong voice that is capable of everything from rock 'n' roll growls to plaintive, yearning ballads and countrified helps. Her voice is the true star of a Brandi Carlile show, and it was in fine form Sunday night.
Among the other highlights were "Closer to You," "Keep Your Heart Young," "If I Live to Be 100" and a pretty true-to-the-original cover of Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain."