(Photo: Sony BMG)
July 12, 2008
Review by Will Harper
What a difference 14 months makes. Back in May of last year, no one had heard of Sara Bareilles when she opened for Aqualung at the Fillmore. When she started her set for that May 2007 show, there were maybe 100 people milling around the front of her stage including some of her UCLA pals and her mom. A lot of people in the audience didn't seem to be paying much attention. And then the singer-songwriter from Eureka performed "Gravity" and showed off that voice--that voice!--and people stopped sending text messages and looked up. Damn, the girl's got talent.
Fast forward to last night: Bareilles, thanks to the success of her breakout single "Love Song," was headlining a sold-out show at the Fillmore. Someone else (Raining Janes) was opening for her. The first time at the Fillmore she performed using a small keyboard piano; this time she sat at a grand piano. There was a professional video crew taping the concert for a DVD. And the audience clearly knew her music, singing along not just to "Love Song," but also more obscure tracks from Little Voice like "Vegas."
When the lights went down to start the show, the Beatles' "All You Need is Love" blared over the sound system, a nice segue into "Bottle It Up," the next single off of Little Voice. (Both songs contain the lyric "love, love, love.")
Bareilles looked radiant and ravishing, wearing a black and white polka halter dress. She kept up a funny patter between songs, one time saying the band was "so happy we're peeing puddles."
About half-way through her 75-minute set, the boys in the band exited the stage, leaving Sara to play what she called her "female anthem," the wonderfully clever "Fairytale." (Despite the fact that I have a penis, this "female anthem" is my favorite song of hers.) I actually prefer the version of the song she did on Careful Confessions, the CD she released on her own label, than the overproduced rendition on Little Voice. She told the crowd how she got the idea for the song after watching Cinderella and wondering what happens after the fairytale ending when, say, Prince Charming gets fat. The she launched into the opening verse: "Cinderella's on her bedroom floor/ she's got a crush on the guy at the liquor store/ Cause Mr. Charming don't come home anymore/ And she forgets why she came here."
The 28-year-old Bareilles' sophisticated, jazzy style distinguishes her from pop princesses on the radio these days. The thing is, she can write sad, but she generally doesn't write angry (she's no Alanis Morisette or Liz Phair). Considering the success of "Love Song," though, she might want to tap into that angry vein more often. The tune was written as a fuck you to her label, which didn't hear a single in the early recordings she did for Little Voice.
"I got really pissed off one time," she explained to the audience, "and what came out of it has turned our lives upside down."
As you might expect, the crowd went nuts when she started slamming the opening piano chords to "Love Song."
For her encore, Bareilles did two songs, starting with a cover of Otis Redding's "Dock of the Bay."
Like she did at her first show at the Fillmore, she closed with "Gravity," a beautiful song about being unable to escape a lover who makes you miserable.
Thankfully, Sara didn't make her new fans--and a few of us older ones--miserable. We'll happily spend a few more moments in your gravity next time you come to town.
Bonus Sara Anecdote: I know someone who babysat Sara when she was a little kid in Eureka. The babysitter told me a cute little story about Sara I thought her fans might like. One night they all went to Shakey's Pizza (does Shakey's still exist?) and Sara, who was around 7, disappeared into the bathroom carrying a little kid's purse. A few minutes later she re-emerged with her bangs totally cut off. Apparently, she'd been carrying little scissors in her little purse.
"Sara, what did you do?" the astonished babysitter asked.
"It's OK," Sara explained in her little voice (couldn't resist), "I still have my hair." She'd kept the clippings in her purse.