From time to time, the planets do align. Tonight was one of the times.
After a catch-up day of work, there was no list of to-dos waiting for me at home. When I got into the car to commute to my western suburb, a DJ on the radio reminded me: Tonight singer/songwriter Brandi Carlile would give a free concert at the Minnesota State Fair. And while I’d been to the fair on Saturday – just 48 hours earlier – I thought, “Why not?” It was picture perfect weather and Brandi Carlile singing…free. A no brainer.
I got home knowing my 17-year-old daughter would be home following four days of camping north of Duluth with her closest friends, but I assumed she would want to go with me if the activity included live music and an opportunity to buy a bucket of Sweet Martha’s Cookies. Good dad/daughter time. I changed and we hopped back into the car – arriving at the fair just before 7 p.m. for an 8:30 show time.
The free concert zone, aka the Leinenkugel’s Lodge, is itself a north-woodsy-themed outdoor stage with lots of knotty pine, cold beer and room for maybe a thousand people to sit comfortably and rest their feet after walking around the fair grounds. When we arrived to find a seat, it was already standing room only. But we found a decent place immediately stage right and very close to the front.
Carlile and her band took the stage right on time and performed for 90 minutes. In the set they sang tunes from her first two CDs as well as three songs from her soon-to-be-released album. The crowd was into the music and everyone started singing along when she did “Folsom Prison Blues,” by Johnny Cash. She drew in the crowd even further coaching us to sing a little three-part harmony on “Turpentine,” from her CD titled The Story. And yes, she sang the title track as well.
Of course, she ended the night with her signature performance of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” which I’ve blogged about previously.
It’s been a great summer for outdoor concerts: Missy Higgins, The Gin Blossoms, The BoDeans and now Brandi Carlile. Maybe it’s because her show was free…maybe it’s because she has an amazing set of pipes…maybe it was the smell of corn dogs and cheese curds boiling in hot oil just yards away…but Carlile wins the trophy for best summer outdoor concert of 2008.