It Pays To Be Early

It’s tough to be the opening act. Everyone’s there to hear the band they bought tickets for, the headliner, and the time you’re on stage is just making the anxious audience wait longer for them to appear. I saw Brandi Carlile as the opener for Sheryl Crow in 2010 at New York City’s famed Radio City Music Hall, a palatial and daunting 6,000-seat room, and armed only with her band of twin brothers and her astonishing voice, we were all-too-happy to be detained as she blew me and the rest of the crowd away.

At the time, Carlile was largely unknown. But she’s an opener no more. Following the release of five albums, including 2007’s now venerated The Story,¹ Carlile greeted 2018 with her latest work, By The Way, I Forgive You, and its initial earth-shaking single ‘The Joke.’

It’s a dramatic, emotionally wrought and empowering message song, without question. It’s produced with strikingly beautiful sound, including the prominent lush string arrangements, absolutely. But most vividly, it’s an exemplification of Carlile’s stunning vocal capacities, in which she conjures peak k.d. lang, and, most dramatically in the three choruses, the great Roy Orbison. This becomes particularly so beginning at the 3:33 mark with her final climactic ascension which begs comparison to the mesmerizing close of Orbison’s all-time melancholy classic ‘Crying’ – only one of the most memorable moments in recorded pop history. It’s truly chills-inducing stuff. And it makes me glad all over again that I showed up early for an unfamiliar opener 8 years ago.

In the spring of 2018 Carlile played 3 sold-out shows back in NYC at the Beacon Theater. This time as the headliner.


¹if you’re seeking another example of visceral vocal emotion, visit this title track – and especially the 2:52 mark