Photo credit: Take 40
Everyone has a singer that they love, that they would recommend to people over and over again, that they wait years and years to see live in concert. For me, that’s Sara Bareilles. I started listening to her music in about 2007, when I saw someone recommend that week’s free iTunes song of the week, a song by an artist I’d never heard of. It was Love Song, Bareilles’ breakout commercial hit, though it took a while for that song to take off here in Australia – probably a good six to twelve months after I first heard it. As soon as I heard it though, I was hooked. It was such a perfect, anti-love song, and her voice was so strong and upbeat that I instantly started hunting around for her other music. That was the start. Six years, an EP and two albums later and I’m still completely in love with her music, so when she started hinting online about touring here I was on tenterhooks, waiting for the formal announcement so I could jump on the tickets as soon as they went on sale. The show was announced in July, and I snapped up two tickets straight away and Natalie and I went along to the show this past Saturday night.
The show, part of Bareilles’ Little Black Dress tour, was at The Athenaeum Theatre in Melbourne, which was a great venue – big enough to hold a decent crowd to create a nice atmosphere, but small enough to still make the show seem intimate. While the tour in the States was quite large with a bigger ensemble band and held in stadiums, this was a stripped back show with Bareilles, a percussionist, and a keyboardist. But for a majority of the songs it was often just the songstress and her piano or her guitar and her fucking amazing voice. Seriously, the girl can sing. Sing like no one I’ve heard live before. When you go to a show and the artist sounds better than they sound on their albums, it’s such a wonderfully pleasing feeling. I wanted to say to everyone there “See, guys? THIS is why I’ve been a fan for so many years!”
The set list was as follows:
Let The Rain
Love on the Rocks
Come Round Soon
Chandelier (Sia cover)
December (with support act Ben Abraham)
Chasing the Sun
This Is On Me (a Ben Abraham song Bareilles co-wrote)
I Choose You
King of Anything
I was ridiculously happy that she sang older stuff (Come Round Soon, Love Song, Love on the Rocks, and Gravity are from her album Little Voice. Let the Rain, Uncharted, King of Anything are from her album Kaleidoscope Heart), though I could happily have heard Many the Miles and Gonna Get Over You as well. Her back catalogue is my go-to happy music, so I’m really happy that she included a nice mix of it for fans. It has to be mentioned that her arrangement of Love on the Rocks was fantastic – very funked up and groovy compared to the album version, and I loved it. She also debuted a new arrangement of Come Round Soon, which was very bluesy – more so than the album version, which was interesting. I think the ability to reinvent her own songs in that way speaks to her talent and drive to try new things with her music.
The rest of the set list was from her latest album The Blessed Unrest, and I love that entire album, so to complain that she left out songs would be silly, because ultimately I would have been happy to sit there and listen to her sing every single song in her entire repertoire. I Choose You and Manhattan are two of my favourite songs from the album, and hearing her perform both live was a thrill – one is a fast and upbeat love song, one is a slow, bittersweet ballad about endings, and she captures each emotion perfectly. I also really love Satellite and Eden, and hoped she would include at least one of those, but alas she didn’t!
I knew she would probably do a cover, and I did use the Google machine before the show to see what covers she’s done lately and I had a feeling Sia’s song would be the one on her set list. Bareilles had nothing but praise for Sia, but noted that when she first tried to sing the song she thought “Man, that bitch sings high!” So she lowered the key and started performing it at concerts. You guys. Imagine a woman standing on a stage and singing that song with just a little acoustic guitar. She belted that out to the back row without missing a key. It was incredible.
The other great thing about the show was her banter. I’ve been to shows where the artist interacts with the audience and tells little stories about each song (Joshua Radin and Ingrid Michaelson in particular), and I’ve been to a show where the artist barely spoke two words to the audience and performed with their back to the crowd for nearly every song (Paolo Nutini), and Bareilles definitely falls in the former category. She was friendly, snarky and cute from start to finish, and honestly she just seemed like the kind of girl you could be best friends with. Case in point: she introduced I Choose You as being a song for lovebirds, and she asked the audience to raise their hands if they were in love. She pointed them out to everyone saying “Lovebirds, lovebirds, lovebirds!” then slid a wonderfully cynical “Fuck OFF!” in as she started the song. She’s my kind of people.
I have been waiting to see Sara Bareilles perform since 2007. Her music found me at a time when I was still a relatively young adult, finding my way in the world outside of university and it just always struck a chord with me. It’s beautiful and happy and sad and bittersweet and hopeful all at once, and every album showcases how talented she is and how that talent is increasing and maturing with every few years that pass. This concert was a bucket list item for me, and I absolutely adored the show. I would love to see her perform here at a venue like The Forum where the audience could have a little boogie, but for a first solo headliner concert, I was over the moon to have been able to get tickets. I said it in a Facebook post when I got home that night, and I’ll say it again: if you’re not on board the Sara Bareilles train, you need to get on. Now.
She’s just incredible.
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