Inflated balloons rest on a red carpet in the hallway, as if a party had just ended a few hours before. The auditorium is empty but it sparkles with life, and mysterious characters wander through the aisles. Slowly the lights come on and the air is filled with music, but it's still not clear what is real and what is imagined in this strange setting. It's reminiscent of the spooky ballroom in The Shining, and Brandi Carlile's "The Story" is indeed filled with a sense of horror - just not the kind that gives you the creeps.
Carlile conveys the frustration of carrying a life's worth of adventures without a friend with whom to share them. The director draws a parallel with an old rundown theater, filled with people and stories long since forgotten. The marquee outside spins through a million unknown plays and young lovers share an intimate moment in the vacant seats. The fear that the song expresses is one of disappearance - of not mattering. By the end of video we realize that Carlile and her band are ghosts themselves, singing love songs to a person who is long gone.
Yet each time the singer abruptly breaks into the passionate peaks of her narrative, the camera shakes and the image blurs - as if her voice crosses the distance of time for just a moment. What we realize is that even if she lacks the one audience member she desires, her stories do reach out and matter to others through her music. In fact, the old man who sits at a piano on the very same stage at a different time could very well be playing the same song. Carlile's stories live on, and in the process so does her love.
Telling your tale to an empty room lacks meaning not because you need fame or the reassurance of others to feel valuable, but because to speak to another human being extends your impact on the world beyond your own skin - and touching something outside yourself is what meaning is all about. The video deftly visualizes loneliness in the way Carlile doesn't seem to care how many fans or listeners she actually has, because inside she still feels like a ghost of who she was with her lover. Yet by the final shot we sense that perhaps she has felt the transcendent power of storytelling - that feeling of connection with humanity that only self-expression can give us.