Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Gig review: Sara Bareilles

Riding high on the euphoria of a top 10 hit, Sara Bareilles was like an excited teenager at the Bush Hall in West London last night. She bounded onto the stage, eyes wide with puppyish enthusiasm, and started chatting away to the crowd about London, the temperature, the fact that she had come "dressed as Dorothy from Wizard of Oz".

Sartorial disasters aside, her set started out energetically with US single Bottle It Up. Sara's "thing" is to hide stinging, bitter lyrics inside radio-friendly melodies and this one is about the music industry putting pressure on new artists to ape the chart-bothering antics of established acts.

It's not something her record company needed to worry about, mind you, as Sara already sounds exactly like a whole host of other big-name FM radio songsters: Sheryl Crow, Fiona Apple and (especially) Maroon 5 come immediately to mind.

Like them, several of her songs meander dangerously close to the territory marked "innoffensive but unmemorable" (catchy name for a territory, huh?). Similarly, when her songs shine they do so with a sparkle that mesmerises the tiny audience into reverent silence. Love Song, the hit, is one of them - but special mention should be made of Vegas and Come Round Soon, too.

However, the gig really comes to life when the singer abandons her piano for a low-down bluesy rendition of the Beatles Oh Darling accompanied solely by her guitarist Javier Dunn... Here's a similarly powerful version from a gig in Dallas a couple of months back:

Sara Bareilles - Oh Darling

On this evidence, Sara desperately needs to shun the polished, session-musician sheen of her current album in favour of this raw and gutsy sound.

It would be the making of her.

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