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Brandi Carlile – Minnesota State Fair 8/31/19

September 2, 2019

I first got turned on to Brandi Carlile when her song “The Story” was a hit in 2007. I bought the album but did not keep up with her career until her break-out album By the Way, I Forgive You came out last year. I did not fully appreciate her until she performed “The Joke” on this year’s Grammys. She absolutely killed it with that performance.

After that, she was on my list of must-see acts. So we went to see her at the Minnesota State Fair Grandstand on a beautiful Saturday night.

I have seen a lot of legends at the Minnesota State Fair Grandstand: Dylan, Emmylou, Chuck Berry, Flaming Lips, Allman Brothers, etc. Now I can add another: Brandi Carlile. She is a charismatic and inspired performer with a natural and genuine connection to her audience. I don’t think it was a schtick, she seemed genuinely thrilled to be playing in front of the 13,137 paying fans at the Fair (her last performance at the Fair was at one of the free stages).

Carlile played a nice sampling of her catalog with emphasis on By the Way, I Forgive You. She did some cool covers, including Joni, Led Zeppelin and Elton. I judge a good concert by goosebumps and Carlile delivered plenty of goosebumps.

One of the interesting things about Brandi Carlile is that she is not a solo act, but a band. The core of that band is Brandi and the Hanseroth twins (brothers Phil and Tim). That trio has been working together for nearly twenty years. Their chemistry on stage was obvious. The band has evolved from clubs to theaters, but the Grandstand is at the arena level. The band easily translated to the big time. The fact that it was beautiful weather made this outdoor show transcendent.  This band had one of the great encores I have ever witnessed: as the State Fair fireworks decorated the sky, the band broke into an energetic cover of Elton John’s “Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting).”  The crowd went nuts needless to say.

A bonus was Mavis Staples, a favorite of mine, as the warm-up act. Mavis, a mere 80 years young, rocked and testified.  It was one of the greatest warm-up performances that I have witnessed.  Later in the evening, Mavis joined Brandi for a cover of a Pop Staples’ song: “Friendship” – an appropriate choice as the connection between Brandi and Mavis was palpable.

I feel like I witnessed a niche Americana act turn into a rock star in real-time. This was a great show and Brandi has earned some new fans for life.

For a professional review see link.  Here is a playlist of the setlist (with the covers by the original artists):

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