Sara Bareilles delights at the Paradise

A review of Sara Bareilles at the Paradise Rock Club on April 22, 2008

, Contributing Writer

On tour in support of her album Little Voice, Sara Bareilles has successfully made the transition from opening act to headliner, treating the audience to a 75 minute set at the Paradise on Tuesday night. Starting the show with The Beatles "All You Need is Love" loudly playing as the band walked on stage caught everyone’s attention and would not be the last the crowd heard from The Beatles.

Bareilles opened her show with "Bottle It Up" which engaged the crowd from the first note as they sang and danced throughout the entire song. The piano playing of Bareilles was not overshadowed by the presence of a full band, but rather they worked as a nice compliment to one another. Any fears that her sound would be different from the more intimate tone of her opening act shows, which she typically performed with just a guitar and occasional drum accompaniment, were quickly put to rest. After "Bottle It Up" the band segued immediately into a sultrier, danceable song "Vegas" in which Bareilles was able to incorporate "Boston" into the lyrics to an uproarious cheer from the audience. Bareilles embraced the loud background vocals supplied by the audience, letting them deliver "No fame, no money, I’m nobody/The way I’m running has sure got me down/On my knees/But next stop, Vegas please" with no accompaniment beyond her piano.

Playing off the energy of the audience during "Vegas", Bareilles thanked everyone for being there as the band introduced "Morningside". This song proved that members of the audience were fans of the entire album, not just the successful radio release that Bareilles has enjoyed with "Love Song".& Throughout "Morningside" the energy of the crowd continued to build and at times their singing was louder than Bareilles’. When the song finished she told the crowd "You sing like little angels, I can’t believe you know the f–king words." Her surprise made it apparent that this humble girl hasn’t quite come to terms with the fact that she is the headliner on this tour. Bareilles takes every chance she can to genuinely thank the audience for being there, for listening, and for singing back with the energy they have shown.

Bareilles teamed up with guitar player Javier Dunn to write their next song "Love on the Rocks", which incorporated a jazz feel and a lot of guitar compliment to her piano. After the song ended Bareilles took a moment to apologize for her "weird facial expressions while playing the piano" and confessed her excitement for selling out a Boston venue.

"Between the Lines" was introduced as a "depressing song about desperately loving someone who doesn’t love you back…yet." This song allowed Bareilles to show off her other musical skills as the first verse featured just her vocal and guitar playing. Then she transitioned to the piano as she continued to sing what sounds like a modern day lullaby to a relationship. Delivering lyrics like "Leave unsaid, unspoken/Eyes wide shut unopened/You and me/Always between the lines/Between the lines" with a palpable raw emotion, she awed and briefly silenced the crowd. The true vocal talent of Bareilles is unmatched by any other solo female performer coming up in the music ranks.

Bareilles highlighted her sense of humor after "Between the Lines" by talking to the crowd about how she "isn’t a man-hater, but typically writes feminist songs" and giving them what she thought was a glimpse into "the awkward person that is Sara Bareilles." Her next song, "Fairytale", proved to be a crowd favorite and allowed Bareilles to once again showcase her sense of humor. She described the motivation for writing the song being her desire to know "What happens the day after the prince and princess ride off together?" And delivering lyrics like "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…I don’t care for your fairytales" provided a great answer to the question. Again, surprised that the audience knew all the words Bareilles asked "What, do you study this shit?" before getting up from her piano for the next song.

Bareilles started the song by simply telling the audience that she didn’t write it but wished she had, before she and Dunn covered "Oh Darling" with the perfection of The Beatles themselves, and that is not any easy feat. If anyone in the crowd hadn’t fallen in love with Bareilles yet, that cover won them over. She then bore a bit of her soul to the audience while introducing her next song, telling them that "August" was written about a real life experience of walking in on her boyfriend cheating on her. The song began simply with her vocal and electric guitar accompaniment.& Yes, she can play the electric guitar too, but claims in her sarcastic style "that it’s no big deal." Although she told the audience she bears no ill-will toward the guy who inspired "August" the pain of that feeling is tangible as she delivers the lyric, "Her eyes, they shine on you…"

The following song "Come Round Soon" featured Bareilles back on piano where she shows her most comfort and showcased strong vocals and lengthy high notes even though it was the ninth song in the set. After "Come Round Soon" Bareilles told the audience that since she had covered all the other emotions already it was time for an "anger song" and immediately began "Love Song" with no fanfare or build-up. The crowd went crazy and Bareilles let them take the vocal reins for the first chorus. Throughout the song Bareilles continued to let the audience take the lead while she played piano, joining in vocally from time to time.

The final song of the set "Many the Miles" allowed the band to lay everything on the table. The song had a familiar style, similar to that of early Jason Mraz, which was achieved through the excellent interplay between piano, guitar, bass, drums, and the occasional shaker. Live it played more like a jam session than the album cut and Bareilles continued that feel by singing a few verses where she just repeated the word "Boston" over and over again. While that may not sound thrilling she is somehow able to not only make it work, but make it entertaining. Bareilles thanked the audience for letting her "share music and share love" with them as the band continued to play. The volume and tempo of the music continued to build until the final verse which ended with Bareilles quietly singing "There’s too many things I haven’t done yet/Too many sunsets I haven’t seen" before leaving the stage.

Returning solo shortly after, Bareilles exclaimed "This has been the best show of the tour" then went on to say "What do we do to celebrate good shows? Sing depressing songs." Sitting at her piano she began her most vocally beautiful song of the night, "Gravity". She began the song slow and melodic and grew louder and stronger as it progressed. Her obvious talent even managed to silence a crowd that seemed determined to sing every word to every song all night. Lyrics such as "You loved me ’cause I’m fragile/When I thought that I was strong/But you touch me for a little while and all my fragile strength is gone" prove that Bareilles is in tune with the emotions of the female dominated audience to which she sings.

After "Gravity" Bareilles invited her band and her "friends" back on stage and was joined by her two opening acts. The entire group then launched into the final song of the night, a John Lennon cover, "Imagine" which can be described in no other word than flawless.

It is evident that Sara Bareilles is so much more than her "Love Song" pop success. She brings emotion, humor, and above all uncompromising talent to a genre in which female performers are more often known for their tabloid encounters more than their musical ability. If Sara Bareilles is any indication of where this genre is going then we are all in good hands.

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