Just as when she performed at the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor in November 2015, she was once again joined by Skye Steele, a violinist and multi-instrumental technical wizard who takes Carlton's piano tunes to another dimension. Carlton said they began collaborating after a chance meeting about a decade ago at The Bitter End, a popular music club in New York City. They opened Thursday night's show with "A Thousand Miles" before moving into songs such as "Carousel" and "White Houses."
The latter half of the set featured music from Carlton's latest album, "Liberman," including songs such as "Operator" and "Take It Easy" where her evolution as an artist is on fully display. Carlton explained that Liberman was her Jewish grandfather's real last name before it was changed to Lee, and she only learned that in recent years. Carlton's middle name is Lee, which she now jokingly complains is all a lie. Her latest album title pays tribute to the real last name of her grandfather, who was a painter. A reproduction of one of his paintings, featuring a nude model in three different poses, was used as the backdrop for Thursday night's show.
Back in college, about 15 years ago, I had a record-size poster of the cover of "Be Not Nobody," Carlton's debut album, and probably a bit of a crush to go with it. I always thought highly of her as a musician. But now that I see the person she has become all these years later, someone who clearly cares about the world around her and the people in it, and speaks her mind, that's been equally awesome to witness.
Opening the show was Tristen Gaspadarek, a musician originally form the Chicago area who mixed it up between keyboard and guitar and sang impressively about a psychic vampire and a gold star.