Live Review: Brandi Carlile with Secret Sisters at The Paramount 10/16/15

Local Music, Live Reviews
Talia Shapiro
all photos by Matthew B. Thompson

For Brandi Carlile, homecomings are sweet, and last Friday's concert at The Paramount was filled with intimate harmonies and an energetic stage presence as Brandi and the band sang of love, family, and connection. A multi-generational crowd packed into the historic theater as the musicians returned to their Seattle roots.

The Secret Sisters began the evening with a pure take on American traditional country music. The set list meandered through the sisters' own songs, including the hopeful melodies of "Tomorrow Will Be Kinder," to classic covers like Bob Dylan's "Dirty Lie" and Frank Sinatra's "Somethin' Stupid," delivered as if we were hearing them for the first time.

Laura and Lydia Rogers' presence was much larger than the physical space they occupied on stage. Perhaps their talent stems from growing up in the musical mecca of Muscle Shoals, Alabama, where they sang a cappella in their community church group. Or it's the time-honored musical influence of The Everly Brothers, their lifelong inspiration. The Secret Sisters skillfully entranced The Paramount crowd with angelic vocal harmonies that evoked a sense of the history of rural American music—and they injected each song with a modern sensibility. They kept the audience laughing between songs as they welcomed us into their embrace with friendly banter and understated humor.

The Secret Sisters

Brandi Carlile took the stage to a roaring welcome of friends too long apart. Homegrown in the Pacific Northwest, the band returned to The Paramount with a blend of rich alternative country instrumentals and elements of folk and bluegrass, with Brandi's unparalleled and brazenly unique rock 'n' roll vocals.

The group's remarkable fusion of sound radiates from the flawless synergy between Brandi and The Twins, longtime friends and collaborators, brothers Phil and Tim Hanseroth. The three musicians began playing together over ten years ago, when Brandi was getting her start in the musical spotlight, and she tenaciously convinced the twins that if they started a band with her, they'd get signed and on the road within a year. Four studio albums with Columbia Records later and Brandi Carlile has gone independent with the new release of The Firewatcher's Daughter, the group's fifth studio album. There is no compromise in sound or passion, and the band's tightly-knit collaborative spirit has ingrained the new material with a sense of home. They've embraced rock 'n' roll's inherent recklessness, whole making the songs insistently personal, with a renewed sense of innocence.

A far cry from Brandi's early days of busking at Pike Place Market and playing in tiny coffeehouses, The Paramount on Friday night was packed and the audience enamored. It was a performance that had fans jumping to their feet one moment to fully experience the hard-edged, blazing electric guitars in "Mainstream Kid," and minutes later, leaning in to hear the nuances of an unplugged, heartfelt rendition of "Amazing Grace." Brandi Carlile rattled the floorboards with "Wherever is Your Heart," a stand-out hit from The Firewatcher's Daughter, as the they sang "Though your feet may take you far from me, I know / Wherever is your heart I call home."

A theme of family also ran through the concert, as it does through The Firewatcher's Daughter, and between songs, Brandi candidly added bits about her off-stage life—details about becoming a mother for the first time, finding a lovingly supportive wife, and taking time away from the spotlight—that grounded the set and made her rugged vocals sound even more heartfelt. Rounding out the performance with "The Eye," the musicians continued to show their breadth of style, with country twangs and three-part harmonies as Brandi and the twins crooned, "You can dance in a hurricane, but only if you're standing in the eye."

Brandi Carlile, as a group, as a musical family, have an ease about them, a way of connecting with the audience, that few performers have. Friday's concert at The Paramount didn't disappoint. It was filled with emotion and passion. It was pure perfection.

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