The Brandi Carlile + Old Crow Medicine Show Revue
17 Aug 2016: AVA Amphitheater Tucson, Arizona
Brandi Carlile and Old Crow Medicine Show are two acts that share a lot in common with one another. Both exist within the overarching furl of alternative country and Americana, both have been nominated for Grammys (of which the latter band most notably won in 2015 for best folk album) and have performed at the Grand Ole Opry (Old Crow Medicine Show is a member), and both have maintained a strong measure of critically-acclaimed success arguably beginning with the introduction of megahit songs in the 2000s (“The Story” and “Wagon Wheel”, respectively). Better yet for those in attendance at Friday’s AVA Amphitheater performance, the collective bundle of artists associated with each act have storied histories with Tucson, Arizona.
Whereas Carlile and the Hanseroth twins who make up her band have been performing in the Old Pueblo for 12 solid years of rising sentiment for the city, as they’ve risen from playing nightclubs like Plush (now called the Flycatcher) to selling out 5,000-person amphitheaters, the Nashville Old Crow gang have travelled to Tucson less often than their Seattle-based counterparts. What they don’t have in days spent performing in the city, they compensate for in tales reaching far and wide across Arizona as a whole. Old Crow frontman Ketch Secor recounted in between songs in his band’s solo set that their first show in the big A-Z was performed in Sierra Vista, and that they were approached by a former governor and given two big bags of “Arizona sweets” for the road, which really just turned out to be some homegrown onions. Whether or not this man was Fife Symington—or whether or not this story even tells the truth—both bands have a unique connection to Tucson, AZ and were not afraid to show it as they got the crowd riled up and ready to go for four and a half straight hours in 100 degree weather.
Secor and his lot were up first, and as they always have, they are ready to carry the top of their show out with an exuberance and flair that only they know how to specifically dish out. Their rowdy, rambunctious, and undeniably Nashvillian flavor has an inarguable ability to connect with audiences and get them excited for each following performance. When you have such theatrics as fiddler Chance McCoy’s crazy legs dance routines and Secor’s undeniable charisma as frontman paired with the collective’s pitch perfect harmonies and top-notch musicality, it’s not at all a surprise that the quintet are ones who maintain continuous applause throughout their overall performance.
Brandi Carlile and the Hanseroth boys prove to be an inimitable trio time and time again with their performances, this time joined by a drummer and pianist to help fill out their higher and lower ends during their biggest Tucsonan audience to date. Carlile’s voice soars, and she has an unmistakable tone and stage charisma reminiscent of such powerhouse singers of country’s darling years as Linda Ronstadt and Dolly Parton, respectively, but Phil and Tim Hanseroth provide a high and a low to her centered vocal performance that elevates it to even greater levels.
She garners a riotous amount of applause reminding the audience that she has been married to her wife, Catherine, for the past four years. An equal amount of laughter follows when she mentions their adopted daughter of two years, Evangeline Ruth, and how all of the platitudes espoused by parents that she’s heard prior to her daughter’s adoption about how one never knows love before they have a child as “bullshit” and detailing how life has gotten harder in a very humorous, but very grounded statement by the songstress. She remarks how every love story has two sides to it, a good and a bad one, and bursts into “The Mother” written about her trials and her love for Evangeline, and it remains one of the most real concert experiences that this reviewer had had to date, moving the crowd with a mixed bundle of emotions as the idea of parenthood well should.
Despite Carlile’s special connection with Tucson during her solo set, or with the Old Crows’ undeniable class and flair, it’s in their shared set near the end of the show, acting as an encore of sorts that really gets the crowd moving. Indeed, these last twenty minutes or so come to represent the brightest highlights of the event. They present a broad collection of communal cover songs to the audience, each great for their own respective merits, from Bob Dylan’s “Everyone Must Get Stoned”, to the aforementioned Parton’s “Jolene”, the Eagles’ “Peaceful Easy Feeling”, and Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues”. The last of which was what they had performed to close the night with something as wily as what Old Crow Medicine Show had started with “Tell It to Me” at the start of the show, with Carlile providing an explosive lead vocal to top the night off with gusto.
The Brandi Carlile and Old Crow Medicine Show Revue aims high to entertain its audiences while promoting the strengths of each band as a single and conjoined unit, and if the crowd in Tucson can act as any sort of gauge on their incredible ability to captivate listeners in any and all ways applicable through honest-to-goodness roots music, then chances are that they will remain successes at what they aim to do a long time after this particular tour is over.
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