There are a limited few that can get me out of the house past 4PM on a Sunday evening and Vanessa Carlton is most definitely on that list.

Vanessa stopped by The Casbah in San Diego, CA during her tour in support of her latest album, Liberman. I included the album as one of my top picks for Album of the Year last year, and, having seen Vanessa in concert twice before, I knew she wouldn’t disappoint.

After a unique opening set from multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriter Skye Steele, Vanessa sat down behind her candle-lit keyboard, sipped her red wine and greeted us with a meek “Hello.” This lit up my smile and instantly I became giddy. Skye then returned to the stage to accompany Vanessa with a violin and looper.

Vanessa Carlton

She opened up with the lead single off 2011’s Rabbits on the Run, “Carousel.” As a fan from the start of Carlton’s career, I had always considered her voice secondary, but felt that what she lacked in power she more than made up for with her lyrical content and beautiful melodies. After years of making amazing records, she has really honed in on her voice. Vanessa has developed an incredibly strong tone that she showcases best whilst playing live. “White Houses” followed after she lovingly dedicated the song to her brother, rousing the crowd with how relieved he was after finding out the song wasn’t as autobiographical as he thought. You can go ahead and bring up the lyrics to the bridge if you’d like more history on the misunderstanding.

Vanessa moved on to the “meat” part of the sandwich, err concert, by getting into the Liberman record starting off with dreamy album opener “Take It Easy.” Her haunting voice echoed through the small, quiet venue while Skye’s violin accompaniment added gorgeous texture to each song. She stuck to the chronological order of the album and continued on with “Willows,” explaining how the song helped her better appreciate her mother (whom she had a strained relationship with growing up).

With no backstory, she introduced, “Nothing Where Something Used to Be” and my anticipation piqued. She wistfully sang while intricately playing the keys,

“I didn’t say it but I was sad to see you go.
You went back to that ghost, I went back to what I know…”

and my eyes sparkled with emotion. Right in the feels, Vanessa! I looked around the dimly lit room and I could see that I wasn’t the only one the pensive song was leaving in shambles. After recently delivering her first child, she found that she didn’t know most of the classic nursery songs to sing to her daughter and this was how the reflective and gorgeous “River” came to fruition.

Claiming there was nowhere to “disappear and reappear,” she started her brief encore sans pause with “Hear the Bells,” “A Thousand Miles” and “The Marching Line.” During “A Thousand Miles,” everyone sang each word in unison with Vanessa. Even though she has released countless, stunning songs arguably better than it, that had to have felt incredible for her to have such a connection through a song that came out over a decade ago.

Vanessa took a short pause to talk about last year’s attacks in Paris before dedicating her last song (as well as one of my favorite songs by her ever), “The Marching Line” to the victims and their families.

Vanessa gets better each time I see her and getting to witness her talent in the intimate setting of The Casbah made it all the better. Give Liberman a go out now via Razor & Tie. See you next tour, Vanessa!

– Submitted by Tristan Bolden, Music Design