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August 23, 2013 at 3:41 PM

A hell-raising homecoming for Brandi Carlile at the zoo

If Brandi Carlile returned to her hometown to raise a little hell, she came to the right place.

The Woodland Park Zoo amphitheater was packed with longtime fans, friends, family and even some of her high school teachers — sprawled on a meadow gridlocked with blankets and low-back chairs. It was a feel-good, multi-generational concert for those who had followed the Maple Valley singer-songwriter for years.

“It’s good to be home,” she said.

Opening the sold-out, 90-minute concert with “Hard Way Home” and “Raise Hell” (both from the current “Bear Creek” album), the 32-year-old singer-songwriter who began her career at Seattle’s neighborhood pubs demonstrated the vocal power, songwriting talent and easy-going showmanship that have made her a star of Americana, folk-rock and alternative-country. (Her second sold-out show is at 6 p.m. Friday at the Zoo.)

Backing Carlile were guitarist Tim Hanseroth and twin brother Phil on bass – longtime collaborators who have been part of Carlile’s career since its beginning.

Carlile reminisced about experiences that only a Seattle crowd would appreciate, such as meeting the brothers while they worked local industrial jobs (noting they could pick up a dime with a forklift) and later playing with them at such clubs as The Dubliner and Duke’s.

She also talked about one of the band’s first big breaks, opening for James Taylor (“He was so lovely”) and later collaborating with the Hanseroths on their first song together as a band, “Closer to You.”

Rounding out the touring band were Josh Newmann on cello, Konrad Meissner on drums and the versatile Gibb Droll on banjo and Dobro.

The set featured many of Carlile’s most popular songs – “The Story,” “100,” “That Wasn’t Me” and “Closer to You” – as well as a couple of choice covers demonstrating her command of mainstream country (“Folsom Prison Blues”) and classic rock ‘n’ roll (“The Chain”).

Explaining she had grown up with “country and western,“ Carlile introduced Tim Hanseroth’s first country song, “Keep Your Heart Young.”

Carlile yodeled softly during “Have You Ever,” a wistful Phil Hanseroth song about the beauty of nature that she dedicated to the Zoo.

The band’s full-throttle version of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain,” opening with Newmann on cello, brought a standing ovation.

Carlile introduced the raw, emotional “That Wasn’t Me,” from “Bear Creek,” describing it as a song about forgiveness, “but not the Hallmark card kind of forgiveness.”

Carlile and her band closed with a raucous version of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” providing an explosive finale to a night of hell-raising fun.

Opening was impressive country-rock band Jamestown Revival, featuring Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance, who grew up in Magnolia, Texas. The 30-minute set featured such songs as “Medicine” and the homesick “California (Cast Iron Soul)” from the new album “Utah.” Certainly a band to watch.

Gene Stout:

Comments | Topics: Brandi Carlile, Woodland Park Zoo


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