Brandy Clark has probably grown weary of the Brandi Carlile comparisons, and I’m damn sure not going to bring them up here. Tempting, though — same first name, initials, musical genre, home state of Washington, penchant for heart-wrenching lyrics, acoustic guitar skills, sonorous contralto vocals, sexual orientation, brunette hair, dimples, et al. Then again, I can’t be much blamed if I bring up the Brandy/Brandi doppelgangerness since Brandy Clark turned it into a drinking game at Delmar Hall on Tuesday night.
“Whenever I say, ‘Brandi Carlile’ tonight, y’all can take a swig of whatever you got,” Clark said, mentioning that Carlile was the producer of Clark’s excellent self-titled album earlier this year.
Clark shared plenty of anecdotes about Carlile and lots more throughout the evening, her song introductions at times stretching up to several minutes, and she had a pin-drop-quiet audience for them. Delmar Hall was configured for seating only for this show, and it was generally a sedate crowd albeit an adoring one, with many senior same-sex couples occupying the seats down front while several rows in the back of the venue went unsold.
Clark, sporting a fresh blowout and wearing an orange double-breasted velvet jacket, opened with one of her best songs, the fingerpicked beauty “Who You Thought I Was,” followed by “Long Walk” and “Pawn Shop,” making for a triple shot of songs from 2020’s Your Life is a Record before turning her attention to the new record.
She was backed by guitarist Cy Winstanley and bassist Vanessa McGowan, both New Zealanders who form the duo Tattletale Saints and who opened the show, a last-minute replacement for SistaStrings, the cello and violin duo last seen in St. Louis at the Evolution Festival playing with — you guessed it — Brandi Carlile. (Drink!)
The band was rounded out by nimble drummer Megan June, sporting a Thing 1 (or 2)-style red onesie and formidable afro, and multi-instrumentalist Ellen Angelico, whose St. Louis performance was her first tour appearance. Angelico’s mandolin, banjo, pedal steel and guitar embellishments filled out the ensemble’s rich sophisti-country sound.
Clark gave the audience plenty of chances to ugly-cry across her 20-song set, as with “Tell Her You Don’t Love Her,” a waltzing weeper about three people tied up in heartbreak. “Figure out who you are in this one,” Clark told the crowd. Lost love is a speciality of Clark’s, one that she chronicles with a novelist’s eye for detail, as on “Pawn Shop” during which even Winstanley’s guitar couldn’t help but bawl, spreading wailing peals over June’s syncopated snare pattern.
After telling the crowd that she isn’t a great love song writer, Clark played one of her great love songs, “Come Back to Me,” part of a run of five new tunes, all of which came off like unkillable classics.
Each was preceded by a lengthy introduction. Before “Northwest” (the one everyone thinks is about attending “a Kenny Loggins show,” one of the great misheard lyrics of 2023), she discussed wanting to name the album after that song until people kept reminding her “that’s Kim and Kanye’s kid.” “Dear Insecurity” (“I'm as proud of this song as anything I’ve ever written,” she said) struck a nerve in the crowd, prompting a partial standing ovation. And her set up to “She Smoked in the House” linked the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption to her grandmother’s hangover after a Merle Haggard concert.
Clark’s anecdote-heavy loquacity gave the night a Brandy on Broadway feel, but, of course, she already has a Broadway show up and running: Shucked, the corn-town musical dystopia written with Nashville hit-doctor Shane McAnally and produced by St. Louisan Mike Bosner. “I have a big spot in my heart for St. Louis because of Mike,” she said before a delicate reading of “Walls,” one of the musical’s highlights.
A three-song solo-acoustic set came at the midway point, a chance to appreciate Clark’s pristine fingerpicking and smoky vibrato unadorned on songs associated with K.T. Oslin (“80s Ladies”), Trisha Yearwood (“The Song Remembers When”) and Miranda Lambert (“Mama’s Broken Heart”). Clark wrote that last one, which she claimed is as close as she has come to writing a classic, evidenced by all the texts she gets of women singing the song at “drunken bachelorette parties.”
Clark tried to fire up the crowd during “Mama’s Broken Heart” (“Let’s turn Tuesday into Saturday night” she proposed), but the audience met her just halfway, mustering only Thursday-night gusto as they clapped along on the one and the three. And if one were to quibble about anything all night, it would be that the band could have elsewhere hit some of these songs a bit harder; killer kiss-off tunes like “Girl Next Door” and “Stripes” at times yearned for a higher gear but felt restrained by temperate arrangements.
Nevertheless, Winstanley, making like Lindsey Buckingham in both form and sound, and McGowan, a secret weapon on bass and harmony vocals, were first-rate, particularly when Winstanley and Clark’s acoustic guitars tangled on “Girl Next Door” and when Winstanley’s slide spooked McGowan’s bass into twisty pizzicatos on “Same Devil.”
A two-song encore paired a couple of goodies from Clark’s 2013 debut 12 Stories, the exquisitely sung “Hold My Hand” and a rousing “Pray to Jesus,” the final chorus of which she turned over to the crowd for an a capella sing-along. The fans were apparently good enough to earn the promise that we’ll be seeing Clark again. “I love St. Louis!” she said. “I’ll camp out under the Arch!”
Subscribe to Riverfront Times newsletters.
Follow us: Apple News | Google News | NewsBreak | Reddit | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | Or sign up for our RSS Feed