Brandi Carlile is nothing if not a wizard with her setlist. In her intimate Los Angeles show Thursday evening at the Palladium — the third of four concerts as part of the Citi Sound Vault Grammy Week series — Carlile weaved in and out of country stomps and ballads, hyping up concertgoers and tugging on heartstrings as if she was curating a playlist for a romantic partner.
The alt-country singer-songwriter, no stranger to playing smaller venues between festival and arena performances, opened with the on-your-feet singalong “Hold Out Your Hand,” which has become a usual opener for her in the past year.
Powering through a 90-minute set, Carlile’s sound was as versatile as her catalog. She hit a borderline yodel on songs like “Raise Hell,” sang bluegrass three-part harmonies with longtime band members Tim and Phil Hanseroth (known to fans as “The Twins”) a few minutes later, then rocked out on a Gretsch. Throughout, she melded crowd-pleasers like Grammy-winning single “The Joke” with covers such as Elton John’s “Madman Across the Water.”
The talkative singer quipped about her wife Catherine’s dry British wit, and how her oldest daughter Evangeline was “basically a Republican” at six years old. “She’s my best friend and my arch rival,” Carlile said of Evangeline jokingly. “She started that shit day one by being born to two mothers on Father’s Day.” Carlile appeared to be holding back a tear while singing her solo acoustic “The Mother,” written about Evangeline.
But the standout of the night was Carlile’s rendition of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You,” throwing back to her complete performance of Mitchell’s legendary album Blue in late 2019. “I had to get hypnotized, I was so nervous,” Carlile tells the crowd of performing the song in front of Mitchell during the Blue show. “It’s given me a whole new belief in my voice. It’s pretty goddamn hard to sing Joni Mitchell in front of Joni Mitchell.” “A Case of You,” Carlile said, is one of the three greatest songs ever written next to Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You.”
Carlile and her band were off the stage for all of 30 seconds before returning for a two-song encore of “Mainstream Kid,” the heaviest rock song in her set, and closing with the beautiful, string-drenched “Party of One” that Carlile, on keyboards, dedicated to her wife. By the end, Carlile jokingly had other things on her mind: “The sooner I stop singing,” she said before finishing her set. “The sooner I can start drinking.”