Soaring Vocals, Girl Power, and Humility
My first experience at the House of Blues in Dallas couldn't have been more inspiring and enjoyable. One walks into the HOB and can't help but expect greatness. Pictures of all the music legends adorn just about every inch of the walls, interspersed with artwork, chandeliers, and various chatchkes...EVERYWHERE. It's a musical information overload. No pressure at all for a newbie like Sara Bareilles.
I, like so many other Bareilles fans, first became aware of this small but powerful vocalist when I heard the hit "Love Song" on the radio. The song was catchy, so I went to iTunes and bought her album, "Little Voice." I soon learned that the single released on the radio wasn't even close to being the best on the album. "Little Voice" is the product of a singer/songwriter's struggle to find that small voice within and grow it into something strong, something that can - and should - be heard.
And boy did we hear it on Wednesday night. Despite getting drunk the night before and climbing a light post, Bareilles seemed completely incapable of hitting a wrong note. Her voice soared on the highs and killed us on the lows. She sang and played each song as though the emotions with which she wrote them were still fresh. Bareilles' lyrics are powerful, the result of fighting her own self-confidence battles as well as with music industry execs trying to force her to churn out hits rather than produce an authentic representation of herself. In the upbeat song, "Bottle it Up," Bareilles zings those who'd have her sacrifice herself for the all-controlling dollar. 'There'll be girls across the nation that'll eat this up/babe I know it's your soul, but could you bottle it up?'
Half an hour into the set, she explained the story behind "Fairytale." Bareilles says she's tired of all the fairytales read to little girls in which the maiden is rescued by a knight in shining armor. She says it's time women realize "we can rescue ourselves." "Fairytale" is a humorous and realistic look at what life would really be like for Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and Rapunzel. It was fitting that her all-male band left the stage while she performed it alone.
Bareilles' musical prowess on the piano is well-known to her fans, but I was pleasantly surprised when she pulled out an aqua-colored Fender to perform a previously unreleased song, "August Moon," about a time she caught her boyfriend cheating on her years ago in August.
Also previously unheard was "Little Voice," which one might have thought was the title track on her album, but strangely, it's not; she did not explain why. Near the end of it, she inserted lyrics from Coldplay's "Viva la Vida." By far the best song of the night was "Come Round Soon," during which her incredible improvisation over the chorus gave me chills. She again found a way to insert a recent hit at the end, this time singing 'I kissed a girl and I liked it/the taste of her cherry chapstick,' making us all wonder if Katy Perry's song hits home...hmmm.
When she came out for her encore, Bareilles brought out what looked like a child's guitar. "I promise I'm gonna play 'Gravity,' but I want to play this song first," she said. "It's one of my favorite Counting Crows songs, and I didn't want you to think I wasn't playing 'Gravity' and then hate on this song." She proceeded to play the Counting Crows' "Sullivan Street," and finished the night with "Gravity."
As professional, funny, and confident as she was on stage, I was reminded how new she is to headlining when she paused after the first few songs and said "this is so cool, you guys know all the words!" Well of course, Sara, duh...but how could she possibly know that we listen to her over and over and over, when a year and a half ago we didn't know she existed? In that moment, I felt very proud for her, and I realized just how much a musician's life can change, and how quickly. Bareilles still has the humility that goes with being relatively new to the industry, and that humility made her personable and charming. She joked with the audience and cursed a couple of times, but she was never vulgar. A friend of mine summed up later what I had felt as well: "I was like, oooh, say f*** again, that was totally adorable!" Too often at concerts we find that what happens in the studio stays in the studio, and the live show can be disappointing, but Bareilles was the real deal...and she was, refreshingly, totally real.
Review by Jadyn Harris, staff writer
Click on the photo for the abbreviated gallery.