A diminutive figure steps out on the stage and the place goes wild — screams, cheers, whistles, and a standing ovation right at the beginning of Vanessa Carlton’s homecoming concert at the Milford Theater on Nov. 20.
The relationship between Carlton and her very loyal fans was total and symbiotic. The connection was almost palpable.
The audience was an interesting mix. Many were 20-somethings (too young to have known Carlton when she lived in Milford). They were mostly the ones screaming and cheering before every song, rock concert style.
Another group reacted to her sweet-tempered love songs that touched the heart. Tamara Chant put it this way, “I was struck by a lot of the beautiful love-related and intense lyrics and actually shed a couple of tears. Her writing and singing really goes right into your heart and I like the fact that her style carried through each song. It was a fun event for our town, and I really enjoyed it.”
Still another group who knew Carlton when she lived in Milford viewed this as a homecoming show. Mayor Sean Strub said, “It was a beautiful ‘homecoming’ show. I was touched by how Carlton linked her childhood in Milford to her professional success.”
Still others, her followers, came from New York, New Jersey, and elsewhere just to hear her sing.
The artistry was magical. Carlton was perfectly in sync with her two musicians, Isabel Castellvi on cello and Skye Steele on violin and guitar. They were not just back-ups but an integral part of the performance. Maureen Dooley said it well, “The trio of musicians were harmoniously entwined and the sound they produced was like a smooth blended wine. Really beautiful and enhanced Carlton’s compositions.”
Carlton’s skill at the piano should not be overlooked. Many fans agreed it was masterful. She is, of course, the daughter of pianist and Milford piano teacher Heidi Carlton. Javier (Xavier) Morales was thrilled. He said, “Carlton’s show was pure magic. When the concert ended, I felt like I knew her better than before (Her mom, Heidi taught me piano).”
Songs with meaning
Carlton opened the show with her iconic hit single, “A Thousand Miles,” which was nominated for three Grammy awards and still remains the most requested song at her concerts today. It brought down the house.
She sang other songs from a variety of her albums, especially “Rabbits on the Run,” “Liberman,” and “Love is an Art.” She introduced each song with a little story that was personal and showed her strength and vulnerability in sharing it with her admiring audience. It gave them insight into who she is and a better understanding of her music.
She told the audience the album “Liberman” was for her grandfather who was Jewish and changed his name to “Lee” because he thought it would help him in business. Carlton said, “We have to be proud of where we come from. We cannot teach hate.”
She sang the song “Willows” from that album, which reminded her of the weeping willow trees she associated with her grandfather. The song has a haunting quality and a very strong drum beat, and stood apart from many of her other songs.
There were three encores, and the audience was enthralled. Joe Dooley said, “What a lovely night out in Milford Borough. Amazing performance by Vanessa Carlton on her return to live concerts. Great to see an artist with local roots in the new and much improved Milford Theater thanks to Bill Rosado.”
The music kept the audience together, and there was little room for politics. One audience member remarked at how the music provided a great interlude from what divides people in the community. And most people were in agreement. There was a loving vibe wafting over the theater.
“We have to be proud of where we come from. We cannot teach hate.” Vanessa Carlton