Storytelling with Vanessa Carlton

On March 6th, 2017, Vanessa Carlton and her violin accompanist, Skye Steele, took the Sinclair stage and lead the crowd through an adventure of moods and memories. Beginning her performance with hit single, “A Thousand Miles,” Carlton effortlessly returned the room to 2002 with the same youthful vocals and nostalgic piano background, that once made her the face of female pop songwriting. However, Carlton made it crystal-clear to the audience, her story is more than “A Thousand Miles.” Through her strategic set list’s progression through her albums Be Not Nobody (2002), Rabbits on the Run (2011), Harmonium (2004), Liberman (2015), then back to Heroes & Thieves (2007), Vanessa used her lyrics to not only share her story with her fans, but utilized strong anecdotes and prefaces to relate to the crowd. Carlton relayed stories of her crazy time on tour, and even her family life in a personal way that reeled in even the youngest in her audience. A highlight of the night was surely when Carlton revealed a new single, “Love Is an Art” created in memory of her grandfather.

Before the big reveal, Carlton pulled up a painting of three nude women on the backdrop behind her, explaining that it was painted by her grandfather, Liberman, for whom the album was named. However, the painting’s signature read Allen. Carlton explained that she had not known her grandfather’s name to be Liberman until just two years ago. An immigrant in an age of anti-Semitism, Carlton’s grandfather renamed himself as he thought this less “jewish” name would lead him to more success. Under this new title, Carlton’s grandfather was a successful painter. For Vanessa, this painting told a strong story of the life of her grandfather and the love he had spread amongst her family. This anecdote brought meaning to Carlton’s new album, but also implored a larger topic: the expression of feelings through art, whether it be visual or performance-style.

Carlton’s introduction of visual artwork into her performance represents a desire to draw attention to the ever-moving nature of art and the meanings that are projected onto them. By displaying her grandfather’s painting that changed the way that she saw her own family history, Vanessa invites the audience to find their own life in art and discover what love means in that respect. There was an energy of vulnerability that made the show unique and intimate for everyone who attended, and Carlton left a message for all to hear: there is depth to be found behind her catchy lyrics; she has made an effort to ooze her life and purpose into every word that comes out of her mouth.

 

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