Sara Bareilles House of Blues June 29, 2013
When I first arrived at House of Blues for Sara Bareilles, I wasn't sure how to process the fact that the show was sold out.
For one, it was the same night as Houston Pride, and by the looks of it, half of the city was down in Montrose to watch the parade. But it's also for the fact that, though House of Blues isn't the largest venue in Houston, it's certainly large enough to garner the respect it deserves.
It's certainly seen its fair share of talent over the years, including acts like Ke$ha, Ben Kweller and this week will host a reunion show for The Geto Boys. It's got "big-name act" written all over it, yet there's something very humbling about it.
In many ways, it was the perfect place for Sara Bareilles to visit Houston in a one-off show for Mix 96.5's Hullabaloo event.
The event, which brought in an excited crowd, also hosted two openers: Churchill, who will be joining Bareilles on her upcoming tour with One Republic, as well as Youngblood Hawke. While both bands featured rock-infused pop and helped get the crowd dancing, it was clear that everyone was waiting for Bareilles to take the stage.
At around 10 p.m., she did just that, and standing at the keys of her grand piano, jumped straight into "Uncharted" and "Gonna Get Over You" -- both of which come from her 2010 sophomore album, Kaleidoscope Heart.
The crowd, which seemed as excited to be there as Bareilles was, sang along with every word.
"Can you guys come hang out at my house? You guys are fucking awesome," gushed the singer. "Well, maybe we should hang out somewhere more neutral."
After she sang her breakthrough hit, "Love Song," Bareilles explained that her bass player, Adam, was a native Houstonian. As luck would have it, it was also the evening before his mother's birthday, and Bareilles requested that the entire audience sing to her.
Needless to say, Texans are pretty damn good at singing the Happy Birthday song.
Bareilles also took that moment to do something that not many musicians of her caliber do -- introduce her band and thank her crew.
Because I'd offered my companion ticket to my sister, who is a big Sara Bareilles fan, she was able to explain that this was an all-new band for Bareilles, and it was the first time that she had performed with a female on backing vocals. My sister also mentioned it was the first time she had seen Bareilles without guitarist Javier Dunn, who recently released his new solo record, Trails. (He's about to hit it big. Mark my words.)
Shortly after, the band left Bareilles along on the stage with her piano for a few songs, and she gracefully belted out a slowed-down version of Otis Redding's "(Sittin' On) the Dock of the Bay."
By the time the band returned, Bareilles was standing at the front of the stage for the first time all night, strapping an acoustic guitar to her chest.
"This is a song that I wrote a long time ago for a friend when I thought I was losing him," Bareilles explained. "Thankfully we worked through things and he came back into my life, but I almost feel it happening again, so I'd just like to play this."
It was then that she jumped straight into a revamped version of "Basketcase," which featured a steel guitar. But one of the shining moments of the night came when Bareilles began to play her song "Let the Rain," and instead began singing the words to Taylor Swift's "You Belong With Me."
As it turns out, the two songs have the same chord progression, and I'm certain I'll never be able to hear that song the same again.
Things kicked up a notch, however, when she prepared to play her new single "Brave" off of her forthcoming album, The Blessed Unrest.
"This is a big week for the gay rights movement," Bareilles mused to a cheering audience, as a gay pride flag was waved feverishly at the front of the crowd. "I wrote this song when one of my best friends was struggling to come out. And this song can be applied to anything, but to me, it's about gay rights."
The uptempo pop track, features lyrics about embracing the truth in your life head-on, and despite the fact that it's her newest single, the crowd sang along with as much precision as they had with her older cuts.
One thing that makes Bareilles so fascinating to watch live is that she's stuck somewhere between a pop singer and a rock star. Sure, she has the gorgeous face and a voice to boot, but she's not out to make big bucks off of it, either. Instead, she seems to get more joy out her fans singing along with her to each song.
Incredibly enough, Bareilles is not regarded as one of the great voices of her generation. Perhaps it's because she's not strapping on candy-inspired mini-dresses or dying her hair pastel colors to match the trends of radio divas like Christina Aguilera, Nicki Minaj and Katy Perry.
But the truth is, when you strip everything away, Bareilles can really dig deep and really belt it out better than most. The fact that she's not expecting or even asking for the recognition she deserves is another story.
Though Bareilles only got an hour to perform, her fans know something the rest of the world doesn't -- she's the kind of talent you stick around for.
After she and her band exited the stage at the end of their set, it was apparent that the show was over. This wasn't a ploy to get fans to scream encore - the venue lights were coming on and security was starting to move around the way they do post-show. Still, the crowd kept at it, and eventually, Bareilles came back out.
"Holy shit, I did not expect that!" she said. "I don't even know what to play."
After taking a moment to gather her thoughts, she finally settled on a very-stripped down, very elegant version of Elton John's "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" before waving one last time and disappearing backstage.
The Crowd: A decent mixture of men and women, and everyone was in good spirits. There were a lot of couples, quite a few post-Pride attendees and a lot of women who looked like they ditched the husband and kids for girl's night out.
Personal Bias: Sara Bareilles is the kind of pop I can get behind. She's smart, she's got style and a potty mouth, and she's killer live.
Seen In the Crowd: We usually report what we hear, not see, but hopefully we can make an exception. Throughout majority of the show, most of the people in my general vicinity were splitting their focus between Bareilles and a trio that one girl described as "a full-blown threesome." It would have been boring had one of the girls not gotten on the guy's shoulders, thus prompting the other girl to put her face and hands up the front of the hoisted girl's skirt.
Random Notebook Dump: Sara Bareilles is goofy and loveable. If she's anything in daily life as the person she seems onstage, she's probably the best friend every girl wishes she could have.
Uncharted Gonna Get Over You Love Song Many The Miles (Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay Gravity Basket Case You Belong To Me/Let The Rain Brave King of Anything
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Goodbye Yellow Brick Road