On a bustling Friday night, a singer known for her sweet-sounding voice and piano-driven melodies performed at a small intimate venue called the Largo at the Coronet. Though medical issues forced her to cancel the rest of her November concerts, Vanessa Carlton performed flawlessly to a full house.
The show’s opener, Birdcloud, entertained the audience with merry but vulgar satirical songs. Moreover, the duo’s raunchy country sound stands in stark contrast to the Top 40-gumball-pop music commonly heard on the radio. These girls were not afraid to break the cultural norm as they gleefully sang their edgy songs about sexuality. Their performance was well-received by the diverse crowd, who showered the duo with whistles and cheers. During the small break after their performance, the crowd walked toward the lobby, filling the quiet area with congratulatory words commemorating Birdcloud on its fearless act of female sexuality.
After the 20-minute break, the crowd returned to their seats, exchanging excited glances and eager words in preparation for the main event. Suddenly, the lights dimmed as the small crowd threw themselves into a cheering frenzy. A hush fell over the crowd as Carlton walked across the stage with her close friend and violinist Skye Steele. A quiet but powerful voice that could be heard all the way in the back row broke the silence with a cheerful greeting, which transformed the room from a gathering of strangers to a reunion of longtime friends.
Carlton began the show with a mash-up of her song “Carousel” and a cover of “Learning to Fly,” originally sung by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Carlton’s light fingers danced on her Yamaha piano keys as the notes fell over the crowd. Immediately after the opening number, Carlton appropriately followed with fan favorites “Hands on Me” and “Nolita Fairytale.” Steele’s violin harmonized with Carlton’s voice, which followed the piano’s low and high pitches.
Carlton felt comfortable with the crowd as she spoke about her inspiration for one of her newest songs. She wrote “House of Seven Swords” for her brother’s graduation as a gift to him. Indeed, Carlton found a familiar niche as she openly shared several personal stories with the crowd. Later she discussed the “interesting” but stressful experience of releasing an album independently without a label. Luckily, she has her family, her fans and her dog to support her through tough times.
According to Carlton, “Tall Tales For Spring” is the “mom song” because her mother would always start dancing when Carlton practiced the song. The song blends soft drums, a melancholy violin and Carlton’s signature honey-sweet voice accompanied by a catchy rhythm. Despite the fact that the set comprised of unreleased and lesser-known songs, the audience swayed to the music.
Halfway into the show, Carlton began to play an unfamiliar melody on her piano. Confused, some fans sat on edge, attempting to predict what song she was playing next. Carlton teased the audience as she held a note on the piano, causing the fans to become tenser. When the crowd realized she was leading up to “White Houses,” they began an intense, united cheer. Suddenly, the venue became a choir led by a single angelic voice.
The surprises continued when Carlton moved from her Yamaha to an aged, wooden piano on the side. For this song, she triumphantly donned a largely tusked Viking helmet. Carlton announced her plans to marry John McCauley of the band Deer Tick next month before ironically singing “I Don’t Want to be a Bride.” The song’s bittersweet, quirky romanticism involved much more than the usual shower of piano notes. During the bridge of the song, Birdcloud came onstage with Vanessa’s young godniece Daisy. Steele contributed his bass vocals while playing the violin. All five of them harmonized as a multitalented family to conclude the show.
After a standing ovation with nonstop cheers and claps, a wave of nostalgia washed over the crowd as Carlton and Steele returned to the stage to perform their most well-known hit, “A Thousand Miles.” Steele and Carlton finished strong, and the crowd gave them a second standing ovation as they walked offstage. Immediately after the performance, the audience rushed to the lobby in hopes of meeting the singer.
And after that spectacular night, these fans would travel a thousand miles just to see Vanessa Carlton again.
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