Carbon Leaf took the stage at Woodlands Tavern more than fashionably late, and to "Cantina Band" from Star Wars. They opened with "Lake Of Silver Bells" from Nothing Rhymes With Woman which I enjoyed despite not being a huge fan of the album, and then moved on to the most catastrophic live version of any song I've ever heard, on one of my favorite Carbon Leaf songs, "What About Everything?" I was prepared to walk out if the show continued in the same vein.
Luckily, it did not. Barry Privett began to engage the audience with amusing banter, which made his stage presence less annoying and more amusing, like the class clown once he becomes your friend instead of just a disruption. The band played "One Prairie Outpost" beautifully (if a little faster than usual), followed by "7 Brides For 7 Sinners." By this time, Carbon Leaf had totally sold themselves to me, and I'd even forgiven them for ruining one of their best songs by giving it a strange tempo and melody.
Barry Privett and Carter Gravatt
Next up, they played "Attica's Flower Box Window," a request from some ladies who were standing to the left of me. Being a song from an earlier album I hadn't managed to procure, "Attica's Flower Box Window" was new to me, but it won me over. That said, "Paloma" was a welcome familiarity when they played it next. Barry then chatted with the crowd some more, before launching into "Miss Hollywood."
Carter Gravatt in particular had several instrumental solos that aren't in the recorded versions of the songs. I was amazed to hear and watch him play, and I now believe he's one of the most talented instrumentalists I've had the pleasure of seeing live. He certainly knows his way around an instrument.
"Desperation Song" came next, followed shortly by some lovely new songs that I can't remember the names of. Then they played two of their more popular songs, "Life Less Ordinary" followed by "Raise the Roof," both of which they performed impeccably.
At the close of "Raise the Roof," the band moved into a semi-circle around one microphone, and asked the audience to be a little quieter as they performed some truly amazing numbers. They began with "Comfort" which sounded great with the setup. They then played "What Have You Learned?," one of the only tracks from Nothing Rhymes With Woman that I really enjoyed. They ended the songs at the single microphone with a song I'm not familiar with, but which I did enjoy.
Carbon Leaf ended their set by inviting another band onto the stage with them, and playing a lively "Let Your Troubles Roll By" with several [improvised?] instrumental breaks. "Let Your Troubles Roll By" was a great closer, and both bands on stage were exceptionally talented.
The band came back on fairly quickly for their encore, and played "The Boxer," which I guess is their most popular song, although I hadn't realized it until Sunday night.
Carter Gravatt plays cello on "The Boxer."
"The Boxer" topped off a wonderful set and a wonderful night.
Taking a cue from bands like Ok Go, Carbon Leaf offered a recording of the night's performance on a flash drive after the show.
I didn't know what to expect from a Carbon Leaf show, but I'm glad I finally got around my inhibitions and checked it out, because it was a terrific experience.