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Review: A feistier, punkier Brandi Carlile thrashes Dallas

Posted 8:27am on Tuesday, May. 17, 2011

During the encore Monday night, at her thoroughly sold-out show at the Granada Theater, Brandi Carlile, flanked by her ever-present collaborators, the Hanseroth twins, stepped on stage and tore into a respectable cover of the Ramones' I Wanna Be Sedated, complete with furiously down-stroked electric guitar.

This was Brandi Carlile? Angel-voiced singer-songwriter whose ballads have soundtracked countless TV drama swoons? Troubadour whose lyrics walk a knife's edge between yearning and defiance? Darling of the resurgent Americana set?

Turns out, Carlile might be getting a bit bored with all that. Her briskly paced 100-minute set Monday featured plenty of slower, more subtle tunes -- an unplugged take on Dying Day proved mighty brave, particularly in a room of the Granada's size -- and ample opportunities for the ceaselessly vocal throng to cheer nearly every utterance. Carlile made her name with tender gems like The Story or Turpentine, two selections from her T Bone Burnett-produced 2007 breakout The Story. But that debut dropped four years ago and the Washington state native has grown weary of simply sitting on a stool, plucking out her misery on an acoustic guitar (as she sort of did during her last stop through North Texas two years ago).

Although Carlile just released a new album, the stiff, underwhelming Live at Benaroya Hill, she's also completed work on her fourth full-length record, as yet untitled. She previewed three cuts from the effort, nearly all of which, save for the heartbreaking slow-burn in the encore, felt energized by Carlile's embrace of ragged, infectious energy. In short, she's learned how to rock. Backed by a band that fluctuated between five and six members, Carlile simply let fly Monday, humbled and energized by the room's undeniable energy (I've been to a lotta shows at the Granada and by the end of the show, it bordered on deafening in there).

Whether this fresh direction proves fruitful for Carlile remains to be seen, but simply from watching her gleefully mix earnestness with ebullience Monday, it's clear she's feeling far from sedate.

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