Brandi Carlile - O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire, London

It takes some artist to make the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire feel like an intimate venue. Granted it’s not huge but it is three levels up and spacious. Well Brandi Carlile managed to make it feel like everyone in the room was a personal friend. Her first visit to London since a 100% unplugged performance at Union Chapel over twelve months ago is an astounding success. The American folk-rock-country singer songwriter and ever present bandmates Tim and Phil Hanseroth covered every base possible in this homecoming - of sorts - show.

“I am just out of my mind excited to be here tonight.” That line sums up the mood of both performers and punters, and sets up the whirling dervish of a show that Carlile and the Hanseroth’s have in store. There are times, when the trio are harmonising their way through a sparse ‘The Eye’ for example, when they’re playing folk at its best, it’s beautiful and bare. And then there’s the triple hit of ‘Mainstream Kid’, ‘Dreams’, and ‘Pride & Joy’ which blow the place up and turns the show into a mainstream indie rock gig. The extremes of styles on show are pretty tough to comprehend.

So there’s the musical delight of the show, that’d be more than enough on its own, but when you add Carlile’s natural warmth and inclusive interactions the evening is elevated even higher. Whether she’s enthusing about the reception she’s received in her ten days in London - her second home, since marrying Londoner Catherine Shepherd in 2012 - or explaining how she and the Hanseroth’s “nerdy band” came together in the midst of the Seattle grunge scene, there are personal things being shared. Then there’s the physical inclusiveness, not content with shedding the comfort blanket of the amps and speakers during the main show, Carlile and the twins appear in the balcony seating for the start of the encore. Totally acoustic. And it’s wonderful.

Putting aside the warm and fluffy stuff, the musical versatility on show for the near two hour show is outstanding, the harmonies sing beautifully throughout, and Carlile’s voice is just unique. Having treated London to the trio in 2012, the unplugged show in 2015, and now a full band in 2016, you have to wonder what treat is in store next. Let’s hope it’s not too long a wait.

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