As Intimate As You Can Get: Brandi Carlile plays the Perelman Theater unplugged and un-amped
Brandi Carlile | Photo by Morgan Smith |

Brandi Carlile’s performance at the Kimmel Center this Saturday was nothing short of inspirational.

Performing with her band and a string trio on the beautifully conceived “Pin Drop Tour”, Carlile et al. unplugged and dispensed with amplification, opting instead to trust in the theater’s beautiful acoustics and their own power to sustain us for the evening. It was an intimate distillation as embracing and as warming as any spirit, and with much more soul than I had prepared for.

On entering the theater we were presented with a carefully curated stage of antique instruments, Edison lamps, and other curios accumulated throughout their travels and assembled around the baby grand in center stage. In all-black attire, the sparseness resonating with the ethos of the tour, you could already sense that what they’ve prepared was something genuinely special.

In the darkened theater, Carlile’s performance began with a flash – spotlights striking out at either balcony where two cellists drew their bows across from one another. Disembodied voices began to float amidst the audience as Carlile and the twins, Tim and Phil Hanseroth, slowly paced through the darkness and into the glow of the stage. A roar followed as the audience applauded their arrival.

Serving as a counterpoint to the austere visuals, Carlile engaged the audience with laughter and charm throughout the night, sharing bits of her life and her loves (she and her wife Catherine wed in 2012 and welcomed Evangeline, their daughter, into the world this year), at times carrying the stage back out into the audience while shaking hands and (literally!) kissing babies. Along with fan favorites and a beautiful take on Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain”, she also performed a sampling of her new album, of which “The Things I Regret” was especially moving.

Sharing an anecdote about time spent with an idol of hers, Elton John, she shared a thought which seemed to beautifully embody the spirit of the evening, encouraging us all to pursue that which is meaningful and to “live in the poetry of it”. That night, the Perelman Theater was filled to capacity not only with fans, but with living, breathing, physical poetry.

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