This past Wednesday, I slogged through an hour of nasty conditions to and from Connecticut's capital, to take in Sara Bareilles and friends at the Webster Theater. I've been anticipating this since before the last underway - that is to say, well over a month. This is the first time I've seen any live music since Ready In 10 back in February; that streak came to an end in style. Assessment: expectations were much exceeded, and the events of November 5 are the front-runner for "Matt's Most Memorable Experience of 2008."
At just about eight, Sara came out to introduce her opening acts. The first, Raining Jane, is four women from Los Angeles, emerging from the same UCLA music scene as the leading lady. The group has an eclectic style, unusual instrumentation (including a cello and a sitar), and an abso-tively hilarious percussionist. In the space of ninety seconds, Mona dropped three lines worthy of the quote record I keep at work:
"Doesn't my crotch area excite you?"Aside from their musical quality, it's easy to see why they're a part of Team Bareilles on this tour. My personal favorite was "Wyoming Sky," which immediately reminded me of one of the loyalists to this thing I do.
"Somebody jump me."
"Hartford's a bunch of dirty bitches."
Raining Jane was followed by Marc Broussard, who Sara promised would "kick our asses with music." He and his band certainly delivered on that, but changed pace enough to keep the crowd guessing. The two that stood out for me were his opener, "Rocksteady," and a song whose lyrics I can't find, but included the words "[bleep] like you do." Broussard and the guys backing him delivered a strong sound that very much reminded me of the aforementioned Ready In 10, my faves from Long Island. Broussard, like Raining Jane, has earned a new fan.
There was another pause to reset the stage, during which I moved into position in the front row. At a quarter to ten, down went the lights, and up came the band, followed by the Piano Woman herself. (Think of who goes by the nickname "Piano Man." YES, I WENT THERE.) A strong leadoff ("Vegas") was followed by the expectedly convoluted entry into "Bottle It Up." She hit every song off Little Voice save one ("One Sweet Love"), and brought in some other stuff, like a cover of Feist's "I Feel It All." (Full setlist at the bottom.) I suffered a personal fail late in the set. Unfamiliar lyrics graced my ears; I'd never heard Sam Sparro's "Black and Gold." This distracted me from the underlying melody, and when the song morphed into "Come Round Soon," my second favorite from the album, I was fooled. Sara even threw in some Katy Perry at the end.
And then came the hit that made her famous, not to mention hooked me in March and converted me to this little faith. Just as "Love Song" was Sara's hit out at her record label, so it is my cry to the Seagoing Military Force. I have video footage of the last chorus; I haven't yet watched it, but I bet the audio sucks because it's probably mostly my voice in the camera's microphone. Marc came back up to help close "Many the Miles," and all three acts joined forces to close with Stevie Wonder's "Living For The City." The stage emptied, but the cries of "SA-RA! SA-RA!" couldn't be ignored, and so she remounted the stage for an encore. It was "Sullivan Street," by the Counting Crows with whom she toured this summer (and with whom my best friend saw her at Jones Beach). As it faded, we wondered if there'd be another; it seemed as if it weren't quite the right way to cap the night. Sure enough, she held form by giving us "Gravity."
At that point, I was on such a high that I couldn't help waiting outside the touring vehicles, to attempt to secure an autograph on the liner notes of the new DVD, and perhaps a picture. I stood in the light rain for many minutes, holding out hope, until someone came by and said she left right after the show. While disappointed, I could understand a desire to leave Connecticut with a quickness. After all, we know she's smart, having a degree from UCLA. (Or maybe she reads tfo...not likely.)
There's plenty more to say about this beautiful night. First off, though I know that I shouldn't say this as a heterosexual male, but Sara has some style. Either she has great taste in clothes, or someone great to pick them out for her, or both. I'll let the pictures say more on this. As the night and the set pressed on, I was struck and impressed by just how grounded Sara is. She was effuse in her praise of the fans throughout, going so far as to thank us simply for "supporting live music." I didn't expect something like that from a major label artist with a top-five single to her name. But it shows that she knows exactly where on the career arc she lies - that is to say, big, but not huge. Let's step back from this gravy train of flattery for a second. The Webster isn't exactly the Building Formerly Known as the Hartford Civic Center, and I'm pretty sure she didn't sell out the house Wednesday night. When I dropped her name at work on Thursday, many people were unfamiliar with it. (Of course, after mentioning "Love Song," everyone knew.) She recognizes that she's still working her way up, and the support of every fan is crucial to her success, at least commercially. Her choice of opening acts show a wonderful loyalty to her friends. And the fact that she's had (according to the DVD) the same band for five years shows she's doing something right.
I do, however, feel it necessary to relate that Sara is perpetrating a massive lie on the music-consuming public. Whatever her reasons for titling her major label debut Little Voice, rest assured that isn't true. Hers is big and expansive, filling the whole of whatever space it finds itself in. That she uses it to bring her own words to life makes it all the more powerful. Female singer-songwriter-instrumentalists seem to have a short shelf life; as Exhibits A and B, I submit Michelle Branch and Vanessa Carlton. I can only hope that Sara prospers while maintaining the musical fidelity that resonates as hers does, and has endeared her to so many of us.
This was a night that starkly reminded me why, as much as I gripe about it, my job is so important. North Korea or Iran could never have produced a Sara Bareilles. It was a prime example of our defense of what I jokingly call the Fourth-and-a-half Amendment: "Congress shall not abridge the freedom to kick ass." Some may see fit to douchebag her, but she's got something special, and I'm grateful she has both the desire and the ability to share it with us. It's no accident that forty-eight hours after it went down, I'm still thinking about that most
[Postscript: I arrived back in New London at 1 a.m., and worked all day Thursday. Here's a shot from Friday morning; I'm still wearing that (melon-colored) shirt right now.]
All previous tfo material concerning Sara Bareilles
Pictures: Sara Bareilles (with Raining Jane and Marc Broussard) - Webster Theater (Hartford, CT) - 5 November 2008
(I apologize for the low quality on most of these...the Webster has a no-flash rule, and for the most part, I adhered to it.)
Bottle It Up
Love On The Rocks
Between The Lines
I Feel It All [Feist]
Little Voice (Thanks much to the commenter who provided this title.)
Come Round Soon [with bits of Sam Sparro's "Black and Gold" and Katy Perry's "I Kissed A Girl"]
Many The Miles (with Marc Broussard)
Living For The City [Stevie Wonder] (with Marc Broussard and Raining Jane)
Sullivan Street [Counting Crows]