There was a quiet moment early in the March 17 Brandi Carlile concert at the Tower Theatre in Bend, pierced by a female voice that came from somewhere near the back of the room.
“I'd leave my husband for you, Brandi!” the mystery super-fan shouted, followed by nervous tittering by those within earshot.
Carlile, on stage and dramatically lit, just cracked a smile and strapped on her guitar, as if such declarations have, for the rising, 28-year-old roots-pop star, become old hat.
I've been to a lot of shows in my life, but I can think of only one where a collective devotion to the performer was as palpable as it was in the Tower on St. Patrick's Day night.
For the record, that was a Bright Eyes show in Los Angeles, where, at 27 years old, I was a relative geezer.
Carlile's show here last week — the first of two consecutive sold-out nights at the Tower — wasn't like that. This was a well-to-do Bend crowd of folks in their 30s and beyond, enjoying a night of stellar musicianship and showmanship from the comfort of theater seats and a 7 p.m. start time.
There was a lot of love in the room, going both directions. Carlile repeatedly complimented the audience and Bend, promising a diverse set list over both nights and offering to take requests. When a woman called out for Bob Dylan's “Don't Think Twice, It's All Right,” Carlile came through with one impromptu verse, wedged between planned songs.
It was a charming moment, one of about a million packed into Carlile's 90-minute set that showcased all of the Seattle-area native's considerable talents.
Among those talents, the most impressive is the least tangible: The woman just oozes star quality. Carlile had full command of the room, from the moment she walked on stage — dressed head to toe in black, with a red bandana tied on her arm — to the final bow after a stark cover of the Tears For Fears classic “Mad World.”
The show wasn't all other folks' songs. Carlile focused on material from her 2009 album “Give Up the Ghost,” but also dug into her breakout record, 2007's “The Story,” flanked (as usual) by longtime collaborators and identical twins Tim and Phil Hanseroth. On stage, the three are a soulful study in symmetry, constantly approaching and backing away from their microphones like pistons in a car engine.
They're also pretty darn tight musically, as proven on a gathered-round-the-mic version of “Oh Dear,” the perfect Hanseroth harmonies on “Looking Out,” and the easygoing, '70s-inspired chorus of “Late Morning Lullaby.”
But most of all, they proved it with an unamplified take on “Ghost” standout “Dying Day,” played on beat-up guitars at the edge of the stage to take advantage of the Tower's top-notch acoustics. It was a jaw-dropping performance, a highly skilled jam session transported from some far-away front porch, and unquestionably the highlight of a night full of highlights.
Carlile spent the middle of the set showing off her band's dynamic range, turning “Caroline” (which has a Dixieland feel on “Ghost”) into a clap-along acoustic-pop gem, and then cranking up the volume for “Dreams,” “Before It Breaks” and her big hit, “The Story,” to close the main set. “Dreams,” in particular, coursed with energy, forcing four brave women a couple rows behind me up out of their seats and into the sightlines of folks behind them. Neither the women nor those whose view they blocked seem to care much.
An encore brought about a mini-Johnny Cash tribute, as the band ran “Jackson” right into “Folsom Prison Blues” before leaving Carlile alone to do Stevie Nicks' “Landslide,” a song perfectly suited for her warm, rich and powerful alto voice.
She closed the night in grand fashion. First up was a massive version of “Pride And Joy” from “Ghost,” which crescendoed into a frenzy as machines spewed smoke in the background, followed by the minimalist piano/cello cover of “Mad World,” during which Carlile sat, hair covering her face, in the near-dark and reaching low into her register.
The show's final minutes had a kind of post-apocalyptic feel, with “Pride And Joy” as the bomb blast and “Mad World” the desolate wasteland left behind. And then, Carlile took a bow and slipped out the side door, leaving thunderous applause to fill the space.
It was a stunning performance, frankly, by a singer, songwriter and performer who's destined to do big, big things for a long, long time.
And I can't imagine how she could've followed it the next night.
But I'll bet she did.