1. She digs our town. A lot.
“I happen to love Kansas City,” she proclaimed early in the show. “In fact, I asked to come here [on this tour].” Kansas City loves her, too, apparently — the crowd treated her like a deity and also like a gal with whom they’d like to drink a beer. One of her thank-you gifts was “The Story,” the breakout title track for her best-known album and the one song, if any, she might have tired of long ago. She closed the show with a sing-along version. “This one is for you.”
2. She doesn’t need anyone behind her.
Carlile has toured for years with fellow Washingtonians “the Twins,” guitarist Tim and bassist Phil Hanseroth. But this trip, for the first time, she took the stage solo — and totally owned it. She is a slight thing, but when she threw her shoulders back and unleashed her sound, the Beaumont could barely hold her.
3. She would make a good music teacher.
Carlile feeds off the crowd (“The set list is just a suggestion list”). During the oft-requested “Turpentine,” she orchestrated a three-part harmony. The whole damn place eagerly obeyed her instructions. “That sounded AMAZING,” she beamed, and even if she says that to all the crowds, it came across as entirely sincere.
4. She is the reigning sex symbol of lesbiandom.
Inordinate numbers of female fans were visibly shaken, slack-mouthed, gripping their chairs so as not to storm the stage in a frenzy of passion. When Carlile pointed out her wardrobe — fedora, scarf, long-sleeve shirt, jacket, sturdy boots — on the first bitterly cold day of the year (“You’ll have to excuse the bundling”), one fan came unbridled (“TAKE IT OFF!”). Carlile indirectly joked about her androgynous appeal, pointing out that she and k.d. lang like to cover the same songs and recalling opening for Hansen in the early days of her career while “looking like the middle Hansen brother.”
5. She is a killer cover artist.
She made her own art out of Radiohead’s “Creep,” the Patsy Cline classic “Crazy,” and Stevie Nicks’ “Landslide.”
6. She likes to unplug.
“Every show, I like to … bring everybody into the same room,” she said, by stepping in front of the mic and letting her guitar go acoustic, as she did on “What Can I Say,” “Looking Out” and others. It makes for intimate moments, yes, but also offers a glimpse of “how they sounded before they left the bedroom.” About that writing process, she said with a laugh, “I start out writing everything like [famous depressive of the Portland rock scene] Elliot Smith.”
7. She is truly humble.
Just as she was happy to defer to the crowd’s warbling versions of her gorgeous melodies, Carlile invited opener the Secret Sisters onstage twice, stepped behind them at least once, and indeed closed the encore with them on an unplugged, ethereal, candlelight version of “Amazing Grace.”
8. She is truly happy.
She smiles a lot, even amid her heavy lyrics. She stomps the stage with delight, seemingly to shake out the last drop of a note. She smacks her chewing gum and playfully removes her fedora to bow. Carlile turned 30 last summer, an event about which she then was “inconsolable,” but the song that came off that milestone is the saucy “Raise Hell.” She is in possession of herself.