Mile high revelations

September 16, 2015 by

Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado might be the best setting to see a show, ever. Nestled amongst the towering red rocks that give the place its name is a 9,500 seat outdoor venue, with great views of the stage and the surrounding Colorado landscape. It’s worth visiting just to see, but to see a performance there is a privilege. It’s as though playing in such a beautiful place inspires the artists to a higher level and the concertgoers to be more attentive. The thin air could play a part in that, but I like to think it’s the magic of the environment.

I had the opportunity to attend Brandi Carlile’s most recent show at Red Rocks in August. I’m a big fan, so to me, it is perfectly logical and normal to fly to another state just to go to a concert, especially at a place like Red Rocks. It was an evening with a couple of my favorite storytellers. And I happened to be sitting in the third row.

Anderson East was the first opening act and brought a bluesy charm to his set. Gregory Alan Isakov was the second opener. He’s a Colorado guy, who gardens and writes sparse-yet-lush folk songs with powerful narratives. You can see, hear, taste and feel every detail of his songs. The guys he plays with are a close-knit group of friends, including the stellar violinist Jeb Eagle Bows (great name, right?)

After the sun went down and the sky filled with stars, Brandi, the Twins (guitarist Tim Hanseroth and bass player & identical twin Phil Hanseroth), long-time collaborator and cellist Josh Newman and a drummer whose name I didn’t catch took the stage and things really kicked-off.

Carlile’s big, bell-clear voice remains the center of the band’s work, ranging from a sweet croon to a roar. Their set list moved from barn-burning to ballads and back again. She brought back Gregory and Jeb for a fun John Denver medley. She also closed with a cover of the Avett Brothers song Murder in the City, her version a poignant re-telling, considering she married her wife three years ago and their daughter is a year old.

What always impresses me is that though their songs are about the big things: love, loss, regrets – they have a way of making listeners feel like they know exactly what triggered the creative process. Brandi makes you feel all of the emotions that underpin her songs. Her stories are alternately sweet, sad and inspiring, but unbeatable when experienced live, in a gorgeous setting.

Who tops your storytelling playlist?