The Fillmore Minneapolis didn’t call on any Minnesota-connected big names, like Bob Dylan or Lizzo, to inaugurate the first built-from-the-ground-up music club in memory.
The swanky, chandelier-festooned venue — part of the all-powerful Live Nation portfolio — tapped Brandi Carlile, the singer-songwriter from the Seattle area who was a Twin Cities favorite long before she became a Grammy-grabbing star.
Carlile does big events in Minnesota — celebrating New Year’s Eve; kicking off a new tour; packing the State Fair Grandstand, and now opening a ballyhooed new music hall. But she played it small Wednesday in the first of three sold-out shows at the Fillmore, opting for an all-acoustic performance accompanied only by “the Twins,” identical brothers Phil and Tim Hanseroth, her bassist and guitarist for 20 years.
It was a Carlile the Twin Cities hadn’t experienced before, aside from a song or two.
She was giddier at the grandstand last year. She was more personal years ago at St. Catherine University when her Waubun, Minn.-based Uncle Sonny, who schooled her on country music, was in the audience. But she has never been more relaxed — or rewarding — than Wednesday at the Fillmore. The perfect combination of warmth, richness and let-your-hair-down ease, Carlile neither overplayed nor underestimated the significance of the night.
Hitting the stage with a gigantic grin, she doffed her hat and flashed two thumbs up.
“Yeaaaah,” she declared. “Now this just feels right to me.”
Even with limited instrumentation (her shows Thursday and Friday called for a full band), Carlile and the Twins had no problem displaying the many colors in their palette — folk, country, pop, Americana, Joni Mitchell, a cappella, gorgeous harmonies, near-yodel, a taste of politics. About the only thing missing from the 110-minute set was a rockin’ nod to Elton John, a hero whom she often salutes.
Carlile, 38, acknowledged one of her recent triumphs, a collaboration with Tanya Tucker on the Grammy-winning comeback “Bring My Flowers Now,” which they co-wrote. Carlile performed it solo on piano at the Fillmore, filling it with a midlife angst in contrast to Tucker’s weathered valedictory reading.
She also offered her own foray into mainstream country, “Highwomen,” a song about important women in history, recorded by her female supergroup of the same name.
Carlile tipped her hat to Mitchell in song and story. She gracefully interpreted the wintry “River” at the piano and talked about going to have tea with Mitchell recently and playing her idol a song by Courtney Marie Andrews, who was Carlile’s opening act at the Fillmore. Andrews then came onstage to trade vocals on her “May Your Kindness Remain.”
Carlile was kind to several individual concertgoers, especially a front-row fan celebrating her ninth birthday (Savanah got the “Happy Birthday” song and a Carlile guitar pick).
It’s in song, though, where Carlile brings pure emotionalism with her luxurious, cascading voice, notably on the potent “Turpentine,” the epic “The Joke,” the empowering “Highwomen” and the surging encore “Pride and Joy.”
When it was over, Carlile held up one finger.
“First night!” she roared.