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Brandi Carlile at Mount Baker Theatre 

If you take away only one thing from this show review, let it be this: you need to see Brandi Carlile live. Right now. Don't wait until the next tour. Go now. It's rare to see an artist and band in such perfect union, and the live show perfectly mixes anthemic rock with soulful ballads. You'll dance, even if you never do. You'll applaud. You'll laugh. Go.

Brandi kicked off her "By the Way I Forgive You" tour in Bellingham, WA at Mount Baker Theatre. A Northwest native, Brandi sold out the show well in advance of its opening, and it quickly became apparent why: to see her perform live is an experience one doesn't forget.

Opening for Brandi was Boston-based Darling Side, a four piece indie folk band. NPR referred to them as an "exquisitely-arranged, literary-minded, baroque folk-pop", and that description is pretty apt. Their set was nearly equal parts engaging the audience with stories about their time in Bellingham as it was music. Both were handled with showmanship and quiet flair, and you'll no doubt be seeing them headline their own tours shortly.

Now, having listened to Brandi Carlile's new album, "By the Way I Forgive You" in advance of the show, I was interested to see how it would translate to a live performance. Halfway through the set, it was obvious this is an album that is meant to be heard live. Playing with "The Twins" on guitar, a drummer, a string ensemble, and a multi instrumentalist, the album is only enhanced by the live format and sounds even better than the record. And that's saying something, because the album itself is a fantastic listening experience.

After a 90 minute performance, playing the album in its entirety as well as a few cuts from older albums, Brandi and her band closed out the show with an acoustic encore, deftly switching gears from rock that brought down the house to intimate, almost coffee-shop volume acoustic. It was beautiful. It was joyous. It was one of the best shows I've seen in years.

For tour dates: http://bytheway.brandicarlile.com/


Photos // Words by Alexander Hallett

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