“It’s all uncharted.”
Singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles took the UC Berkeley Greek Theatre by storm last night. The performance was the last stop on her “Little Black Dress” tour. Sara crisscrossed the country this summer, mostly playing songs from her newest album, “The Blessed Unrest.” It’s a new album, with a new, more electronic sound, she’s backed by a new band, and is sporting a new, glamorous style. In under 8 years, Bareilles has gone from singing in a UCLA a cappella group and playing small venues in LA, to being a celebrity judge on The Sing-Off, living in New York, writing music for the Broadway adaptation of the film “Waitress,” and performing with Carole King at the Grammy Awards. Her first major studio album, “Little Voice,” debuted on the US Billboard 200 at number 45, selling about 16,000 copies in its first week. Her latest album, “The Blessed Unrest,” debuted at number 2 on the Billboard200, only behind Jay-Z‘s Magna Carta… Holy Grail. It sold 68,000 copies in its first week of release.
“It can’t be a mistake if I just call it change.”
Things have certainly changed for Sara B. Her ability to evolve and innovate her material is what keeps her work so compelling. The crowd at the Greek Theatre last night was incredibly diverse – well, not in gender, but at least in age. Tween girls at their very first concert were belting out “Brave” alongside 30-somethings who have been singing “Gravity” as their bad relationship anthem for years. But one thing hasn’t changed. One thing brought the crowd of over 8,000 people together last night. Sara’s unique ability to speak truthfully.
“Because I found I was made to be exactly like me.”
I’ve been preaching the weighty words of Sanford Meisner to my students this week: “Acting is behaving truthfully under imaginary circumstances.” This is what makes a performance real and compelling. What makes it difficult is that we often have difficulty behaving truthfully in real circumstances – forget about imaginary circumstances. Maybe it’s her theatrical background. Maybe it’s just good parents. But Sara Bareilles seems to have mastered this art. Everything about her show comes off as earnest and real. She is funny. She is profound. She is vulnerable. She is hard as nails. There is a point to every one of her songs.
“I wanna see you be brave.”
Last year, after her move from LA to New York, Sara embarked on the “Brave Enough Tour: A Special Solo Journey.” She left her band behind, and went back to the beginning. Playing small venues without any opening acts or backup musicians. She played piano, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, ukelele, and squeeze box. No videos, effects, or spectacle. Just Sara and her music. She sang:Once upon another time Somebody’s hands who felt like mine Turned the key and took a drive Was free Highway curve, the sun sank low Buckley on the radio Cigarette was burning slow So breathe Just yellow lines and tire marks And sun-kissed skin and handle bars And where I stood was where I was to be No enemies to call my own No porch light on to pull me home And where I was is beautiful Because I was free
“I’ll get my little black dress on.”
Last night’s setting was completely different. Sara played all of her usual instruments, but she was also backed by a six-piece band. Drums, guitar, bass, cello, violin, and keyboard. She also has three new female backup singers. But Sara and her message remained the same. Be brave. Be yourself. Don’t date douchebags. Between making fun of Berkeley fans for cheering for the word “cantaloupe” and an impromptu verse of “Let’s Get Physical,” Sara moved the crowd with her stories of her difficult decision to leave LA (and a relationship) to start anew in New York, and dedicated her song “Hercules” to anyone struggling with depression. She performed new arrangements of classics such as “Love Song,” “Gravity” and “Come Round Soon.” And – joy of joys – she premiered a song from her new musical, “Waitress.” The last finale of the night was a performance of the song “Satellite Call.” As Sara sang, the audience became dotted with white lights. Each of us, a small satellite reaching out to someone else. The song says:This one’s for the lonely child Brokenhearted, running wild This was written for the one to blame One who believe they are the cause of chaos and everything You may find yourself in the dead of night Lost somewhere up in the great big beautiful sky You were all just perfect little satellites Spinning round and round this broken earthly life This is so you’ll know the sound Of someone who loves you from the ground Tonight you’re not alone at all This is me sending out my satellite call This is so you’ll know the sound Of someone who loves you from the ground Tonight you’re not alone at all This is me sending out my satellite call
In her song, “Chasing the Sun,” Sara asks:So how do you do it, With just words and just music, capture the feeling That my earth is somebody’s ceiling
How do you pay homage to the past without dwelling on it? How do you look into the vast unknown future without feeling terrified? Sara may not feel like she has the answers, but for so many of us who listen to her music, she shines a bright, bright light of truth.
Heck. She even helps fans plan their wedding proposals!