A Cathartic Night on the Upper West Side

March 25th, 2013

Brandi Carlilie – Beacon Theatre – March 22, 2013

Brandi Carlile and her band sat in their New York City hotel room late last October and focused on the weather report. Hurricane Sandy had finally hit town, and it was much worse than anticipated. As it became evident that New Yorkers (and millions of others throughout the East Coast) would lose power, transportation, and—in a few heartbreaking circumstances—their lives, the shows were canceled. Carlile, devastated like the rest of America, was forced to skip the Big Apple and continue with her tour. But she didn’t forget about us. Instead, the singer-songwriter rescheduled the shows and even shipped up a massive backdrop of duck camouflage to bring a little “white-trash” feel, as she described it, to the Upper West Side on Friday night.

The show felt even more important, given the tragedies and difficulties many New Yorkers have faced since Sandy, and Carlile clearly exhibited a little extra oomph: “I think we’ve all officially beaten that hurricane,” she shouted to the crowd at the gorgeous old Beacon Theatre. Cheers reverberated throughout the acoustically perfect hall. And Carlile, keen enough to recognize that aspect of the venue, walked to the very front of the stage with her band. “It would be stupid,” she said only a few feet away from the front row, “not to use this room for what its meant for—great acoustics.” They launched into a terrific unplugged version of “What Can I Say” and received a standing ovation from the previously seated crowd for their efforts. It was a moment of delayed catharsis for ticket holders, one that highlighted the transformative power of music. And, really, that’s all any of us can hope for in a live show. —Alex Kapelman