She's been mentored by Elton John and has a Patsy Cline like croon, so what could possibly make Brandi Carlile better? As this record shows, add in the Seattle Symphony and you've got something pretty magical.
Always one to show her love of cover songs, Brandi gives us several on this record. Starting with a cover of Elton's "Sixty Years On," Brandi later mentions that she thinks of Sir Elton every time she sits down at a piano ("That's what heros are all about"). Carlile then goes on to perform the often-covered "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen and also gives us a pretty stellar version of Alphaville's "Forever Young," which Brandi refers to as one of her favorite songs from the '80s.
While Brandi's voice is southing for my soul and I love to hear her sing, I will actually say the highlight of the album for me is the incredible cover of "The Sound of Slience" by the Hanseroth twins. Seriously, they nail the signature falsetto and the end result is a really inspiring number that reminds me why I 1). love Simon and Garfunkel and 2). love the Hanseroths. I would love to see these guys come out with a record of their own (even better if Brandi plays on it).
For me I love Brandi's voice best when she's wailing - it's such a beautiful little singing yell. It's actually that crack in her voice that I really love, as if she's pushing herself to a place where the emotion overtakes the art. And Live at Benaroya Hall definitely has some screamers. "Dreams" from her 2009 record Give Up the Ghost and "The Story" which was the title track from her second release under Columbia records are the most noted howlers on the record, and they are only made better by the the accompanying strings.
Seeing Brandi live is a bit of an all-sing event, where she really interacts with the audience and really involves the crowd. You can hear this on "Turpentine" when she divides the audience and works to lead them in a three part harmony sing along. While fun (and usually pretty powerful) when you're there, I would say it loses something in translation on a live record.
All in all if you like Brandi Carlile (or female singer-songwriters for that matter) I would add Live at Benaroya Hall to your collection. It's a pretty pretty little record from one of the most commanding voices in the business.