LIVE: Vanessa Carlton @ Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, 12/3/15

Review by Greg Haymes

Pop singer-songwriter Vanessa Carlton was just 16 years old when she wrote her breakthrough hit single, “A Thousand Miles,” which earned her Grammy nominations for both Record of the Year and Song of the Year. The song of longing rocketed her 2002 debut album, Be Not Nobody, to platinum sales status and into the Top 5 on the Billboard pop charts. It’s still her biggest crowd-pleaser in concert, and without a doubt, her most recognizable song.

While she hasn’t matched the chart success of her debut, she certainly has come a long way since then…

Earlier this month at a benefit concert for the Capital Region Coalition to End Homelessness at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Carlton sat down at the Steinway and launched into Tom Petty’s “Learning to Fly” melded with her own “Carousel” as her opening number – yes, it’s odd for a singer-songwriter to start off with a cover, but Carlton is definitely playing by her own rules these days. She offered a couple more tunes as appetizers, including the coming of age crowd favorite “White Houses,” before settling in for the main course – seven consecutive songs from her new album, Liberman, which was released just a month ago.

She said that the new album “lives in its own sonic world,” by way of explaining why she played the songs all together in the same sequence as on the album. With Carlton’s classical touch on the grand piano accompanied only by Skye Steel on violin (and occasional looped acoustic guitar and backing vocals), the songs were awash in nostalgia, but not the cliched “I remember when” kind of nostalgia. Rather Carlton – now 35 and married with a newborn daughter – was exploring the emotional connection of her new family to the similar time-frame of her parents and her grandparents. She was most successful with “Willows” and the music-box-like “Blue Pool,” but at other times, the songs seemed perhaps too personal to draw the audience in.

Vancouver-based singer-songwriter Joshua Hyslop opened the show with a short six-song set that earned him a host of new fans, perhaps as much for his thoroughly engaging between-tune patter as for such songs as “Time Alone” and “In Deepest Blue.”

Learning to Fly (Tom Petty) > Carousel
Tall Tales for Spring
White Houses
Take It Easy
House of Seven Swords
Blue Pool
Nothing Where Somethings Used to Be
A Thousand Miles
Hear the Bells
The Marching Line

Cold Wind
Time Alone
Let It Go
The Flood
In deepest Blue

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