Brandi Carlile and Blitzen Trapper at the Fox in Oakland

A year ago, almost to the day, I saw Blitzen Trapper and Dawes co-headine a show at the Fillmore in San Francisco. It was a fantastic, if not subdued show. Blitzen Trapper doesn’t do much rocking out these days, but are musically sound and I was excited to see them open for Brandi Carlile this time. To me, they were the known commodity, but I was curious to see how she was in concert.

We got to the Fox Theater in Oakland right before Blitzen Trapper went on and they were who we thought they were. Very mellow, subdued, not boring, but certainly not exciting. I expected more from them, I guess. I expected them to make an effort to be the same rock ‘n roll from their earlier career, with a nice mix from American Goldwing. It didn’t work out that way and they mostly lulled the crowd into a mellow haze.

Then came out Brandi Carlile. I first discovered Mrs. Carlile while listening to her on Daytrotter. She had a great style, that wasn’t quite modern country (I’m thankful for that), wasn’t quite Indie and wasn’t quite classic country. She’s sort of a mix of all three and I was intrigued to see what direction she would take the show. She took it to the funnest place she could have. I know that’s a hokey way to describe it, but it’s really the only way.

Yes, she is superbly talented, has a great voice, writes great songs, plays guitar amazingly well, but so what? I mean, really so what? There are tons of artists like that on the street corners of cities across the world. No, what Brandi Carlile has that most artists do not have is charisma. She is one of the more charismatic artists that I’ve seen. She has…dare I say it…Bruce Springsteen charisma. The type of charisma that makes you smile and jump up and down. She made the audience dance, not by telling them to, but by doing it herself.

I have never heard women scream louder for a female artist like they did for Brandi Carlile. I have never seen the Fox Theater so full and I have never, not ever, seen an audience leave happier, still singing the artists songs. That was the happiest I have ever seen an audience leave a show and conversely disappointed that this wonderful artist couldn’t play longer. I heard those exact words. “I wish she could have played just a little longer.”

This was after two encores, including a solo encore, three cover songs including a rousing rendition of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” which to my eternal shame and dismay I did not recognize as a Dolly Parton song right off the bat. The breadth of my country knowledge is slipping I must do something about encourage you all to check her out when she hits the road again. You’ll thank me.


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