Recorded during her 2010 tour in support of Give Up the Ghost, this live album finds Brandi Carlile performing a mix of original songs and cover material alongside the Seattle Symphony. Carlile’s earthy pop/rock is a far cry from classical fare, perhaps, but the pairing doesn’t sound as odd as you’d think. With their cathartic melodies and storybook lyrics, her songs have always tended to fare equally well in acoustic settings and full-band arrangements. Backed by a full orchestra, they take on an anthemic quality while still highlighting everything that makes Carlile’s music so appealing, keeping the spotlight on her voice -- which has never sounded better -- and festooning it with all sorts of pretty flourishes. Occasionally, the symphony pulls away entirely, leaving Carlile and her longtime backing band -- including brothers Tim and Phil Hanseroth, who perform a spot-on cover of “The Sound of Silence” toward the end of the set -- to remind everyone what the core of this music sounds like. But Live at Benaroya Hall is more concerned with dressing up Carlile’s music in elegant, orchestral clothing, and the results are pretty stunning, from the grandeur of “The Story” -- now featuring horns, woodwinds, and strings -- to the graceful ebb and flow of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” which vacillates between simple guitar arpeggios and lush symphonic swells. This isn't Brandi Carlile's first concert album, but it's certainly the best.
AllMusic Review by Andrew Leahey