Sometimes an up-and-coming band gets handed a silver spoon and gets to open for a band that already has a group of excited and loyal followers.--- Ivan and Alyosha acknowledged this when I rolled up to the merchandise table to speak with them after their 45-minute set opening for Brandi Carlile last night at Red Butte Garden.
The Seattle band, formed by Tim Wilson and Ryan Carbary in 2007, and later joined by Tim Kim and Pete Wilson, is an, “indie, folk-pop rock band with aspirations of world domination (they’re funny, too)” that gained national recognition from NPR during coverage at SXSW. Let’s be honest. Sometimes crowds suffer through an opening band waiting for the headliner, but last night Ivan and Alyosha (Dostoyevsky, anyone?), whose musical influences include Jeff Tweedy, The Beatles and traditional hymns and gospel music engaged the crowd with vocal harmonies and heartfelt lyrics, playing songs from their albums Fathers Be Kind and The Vocals, The Chorus, including “Easy to Love” and “Fathers Be Kind,” as well as some new songs, which will be on a new album expected to be released in March.
If you didn’t get a chance to see these guys in action last night, catch them at Kilby Court on Sept.19.
After jumping up and down to Ivan and Alyosha, the crowd expected Brandi Carlile and the band to take the stage, but it was drummer Allison Miller who first appeared and whipped out a solo drum set that brought the already-excited crowd to its feet. After about three minutes of that, the twins -- guitarist Tim Hanseroth and bassist Phil Hanseroth -- cellist Josh Neumann and Brandi strolled onto the stage and immediately went into “Dreams,” from the most recent studio album Give Up the Ghost, released in 2009. The crowd went wild for 30-year-old Brandi, whose bluesy voice and occasional yodeling grabbed them and didn’t let go during the entire set.
If there is one thing a fan knows about Brandi Carlile, it is that she is just so nice. After her second song, she looked into the audience and said she had a hard time focusing because of two young girls dancing in the front row. She pulled the two girls, who where both under 10 years old, up onstage and the three took a bow. After making the two little girls' night, it was back to business with one of her more popular songs, “What Can I Say,” from her first album, Brandi Carlile (the song became popular after it was played on Grey’s Anatomy).
During all the concerts she plays in Salt Lake City, Brandi always reminds the crowd that this is one of her favorite places to play. She proved that last September with a three-night run at The State Room, where she played all three albums, something she says she’s never done before. Last night, she said that out of all the shows on this tour, this was the one she was looking forward to the most (Side note: I asked my sister, who lives in Austin and saw her play this summer, if Brandi said the same thing to Texas fans. She did not. She really does love us, Salt Lake City.)
Maybe it is the crowd, the sound at Red Butte Garden, the perfect weather or being surrounded by mountains that makes Salt Lake City so appealing to Carlile, but whatever it is, she never disappoints. Her lyrics are emotional, personal, political and thought-provoking. They can also make a person who listens want to go out there and change the world.
After “What Can I Say,” it was time for a cover of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” which she played at The State Room and also in June when she wowed the crowd with 30-minute, much-too-short set when she toured with Ray LaMontagne. With a long, impressive fiddle solo by Jeff (you will have to forgive, I did not catch his last name and the Internet was not helpful this morning), the song was one of the highlights of the show. A new song, “Raise Hell,” was another highlight that she said is the most favorite song she’s ever written. Brandi described it as sweet, delicate and demur, but the song is anything but that, and hopefully it makes it onto her next album.
Even when she sat down at the piano and played slower songs, including “Shadow on the Wall” and a new song Tim wrote, “Keep Your Heart Young” -- which Brandi dared anyone to not relate to the lyrics -- the show never lost momentum. Other songs included favorites “Before it Breaks,” “The Story” and a cover of Patsy Cline's “Crazy.” Like she did at The State Room and at the Arts Festival Summer Solstice show, Brandi once again involved the crowd in the song, “Turpentine.” The crowd became the “Red Butte Garden Three-Part Harmony,” and, divided into three groups, sang parts of the chorus.
After an hour and 40 minutes, the encore seemed to come too soon. First up were the twins, whose cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence,” which appears on the album Live at Benaroya Hall, sounds eerily like the original. The second song, “Pride and Joy” off of Give Up The Ghost, is a slower tune and was a neat pick to calm down and chill out the crowd. In celebration of her 30th birthday, Brandi teased the crowd and played a little of Bonnie Tyler's “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” but eventually covered “Forever Young.” And even though the time had come for her to end, she couldn’t resist playing the first verse of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”
It’s hard to believe the show wasn’t sold out. And if she plays Salt Lake City again -- which she will because, remember, she loves us -- you should probably make sure you get yourself there. You won’t regret it.