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Vanessa Carlton performs at Legends

Adriana Pratt | Monday, April 30, 2012


The warbling was worth the wait. Though Vanessa Carlton graced Notre Dame with her presence later than expected, by the time the curtains closed on the Legends stage Saturday night, the audience was left impressed and satisfied with the musician’s performance.

After opening act freshman Michael Paluzzi strummed through a few of his original acoustic tunes, Carlton took the stage. Accompanied by violinist Skye Steele, the duo situated themselves while the audience, layers deep through the dance floor and out the door, screamed in excitement. 

The screaming, unfortunately, continued throughout most of Carlton’s set, though the musicians didn’t seem to mind.

Exuding the serene elf-like vibes of the “Lord of the Rings'” Arwen, Carlton sat at the piano in a robe-like red gown, hair flowing free and makeup light and natural. Her platform sandals enthusiastically pumped the pedals as multiple gold animal rings danced across the keys. 

The look suited her, as Carlton said in an interview with Scene before the show that she found her very own “Shire” in England where she will record her next album. 

The concert’s setlist drew heavily from her 2011 album “Rabbits on the Run.” Carlton classics, like “White Houses” and “Hands on Me,” were peppered throughout.

The audience went nuts when she finally appeased their screams for “A Thousand Miles,” the penultimate number of the night. Despite a few technical difficulties early in the show, Carlton maintained a reverie-like ambiance on stage throughout.

Though she said she feels at home in a college setting, and her lyrics certainly match a coming-of-age period, Carlton’s performance was almost too mature for the crowd. As excited as I’m sure she was to hear, “I love you Vanessa!” every five minutes, the intoxicated repetition drowned out some of Carlton’s deeper musings.

Between pieces, she’d pause and deliver the creation story of each song, but most details were lost amidst the constant chatter. A few came through the microphone, however, including a live and let live message about relationships before the song “Who Says.”

Backstage before the concert, Carlton divulged more details about her philosophy and journey as an artist. She noted a change in sound over the past few years and said further changes would come with her next album.

“We’re going to do something sort of like a, it’s really an electronic dance-pop record,” Carlton said. “It’s going to be different. I think it’s oddly a natural progression from ‘Rabbits.’ I don’t really know how I can explain that in a way that makes sense, but once I think we start making the tracks, it will make sense. I’m really, really excited.”

She said inspiration for her upcoming album comes both from listening to her college-aged brother’s trippy, euphoric music and reading classical mythology.

“I’m very inspired by Shamanism and right now, I’m kind of revisiting a lot of old mythological tales and kind of psychedelic poetry,” Carlton said.

Carlton’s world and music changed direction a few years ago, sparked by what she said was “deep misery” and chaos she didn’t have the tools to make sense of at the time. 

“I’m an ongoing, working, evolving person, you know? Because we all are,” she said. “I think my biggest triumph, I guess, was the fundamental shift I had a couple years ago where I just kind of devoted myself to being as authentic and generous and happy as I possibly could be, and just really appreciating the wonderful people and creatures in my life.

“Life’s pretty short. I think once you have a shift like that in your attitude, I think that affects your work, your writing, everything.”

Figuring out what’s important became a priority for Carlton. Though she dropped out of Columbia University in the midst of her blossoming career, she said she is very passionate about supporting education, and in particular musical education. 

Another Carlton passion is the environment. She recently performed with Gavin DeGraw at the Origins Rocks Earth Month Concert in New York, and has tried to maintain an environmentally-friendly atmosphere on tour.

“I mean it’s really hard, especially when I travel the world so much and I’m outside the [United] States a lot, and to see how behind we were,” she said. “We’re getting much better, and to kind of be more progressive in terms of how much (we) waste and how we kind of even run our hotels and stuff … It’s a little frustrating.”

Carlton said she was excited to perform at Notre Dame, and not just because the University shares a similar devotion to sustainability.

“[Notre Dame] is gorgeous and I was really excited when I was invited to come,” Carlton said. “I love playing universities and … my brother’s still in college so … it feels like home in a way. I mean, I know I’m not a college kid, but I feel really comfortable here, playing schools.”

She loves playing colleges and she loves performing for a youthful audience, but that doesn’t mean Carlton doesn’t have a little age to her soul. In fact, according to her, she’s well on her way to becoming one of the women from “Grey Gardens,” a documentary film about a socialite mother and daughter hiding away from the world. 

So where exactly does Carlton see herself 30 years from now? She said she hopes she’ll be a “crazy old pottery teacher composer living in the Redwood forest.”

Contact Adriana Pratt at [email protected]