(Hotel Cafe, Hollywood) It was quite a homecoming for Sara Bareilles when she played the Hotel Café in Hollywood, California Friday night. The Grammy-nominated artist was all smiles as she made her way to the piano, positioning herself to take the small, packed venue along on her emotional journey for the first of two sets that night.
Her unmistakable voice was strong and clear, despite a warning from her at the beginning of the show that she was suffering from a cold. It was the first time she played two shows in one night, coming off the heels of a performance on The Craig Ferguson Show that forced her to postpone Thursday night’s show.
With just one major release under her belt, Bareilles was still not lacking in material. Nearly every track off Little Voice was played, as well as some newer (and older) songs and covers. Fans of the pop production on her album -- which is so slick you can practically ice skate on it -- would have been disappointed by her set that night. However, for those who enjoy the organic, soulful sound that the Hotel Café has become synonymous with, this was truly a stellar performance. To get an idea of how it sounded, check out her iTunes exclusive “Live Session.”
She began her performance by bringing out a representative from Playing For Change, a non-profit organization with the goal of bringing the world together through music. He announced that proceeds from the show would go to help build a music school in South Africa, to the delight of the crowd. It’s nice to have physical evidence of the transformative power of music. Situated behind the piano, alone on the stage, Bareilles was the center of the dimly lit room as she played the opening chords of “Undertow,” a heartfelt ballad from her self-produced first album, Careful Confessions.
She followed that up with “Fairytale” and “Free Ride” -- a new song that found the pianist playing ukulele -- before being joined by her bandmates for the poignantly deep “One Sweet Love.”
After relating a funny anecdote about being the only person standing during U2's Grammy performance, she played a rhythmically unique acoustic version of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” She then psyched the crowd out with the first lines of “I Will Survive,” another playful moment from an artist who obviously doesn’t take herself too seriously.
The rest of her set went as follows:
“Come Round Soon” “Vegas” “Bottle It Up” Unknown New Song / “I Want You To Want Me” (Cheap Trick) “Many The Miles” “Love Song” “Umbrella” (Rihanna)
After a short encore break, Bareilles returned to the stage with supporting act Tony Lucca for a duet of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire.” Lucca’s clear tenor complemented Bareilles nicely, creating a totally unique take on this highly-covered classic. It’s worth noting that Lucca, as well as openers Raining Jane, created some superb moments of their own earlier in the evening. Checking them out is highly recommended.
For her final song, Bareilles was left completely alone on stage once again. Her first set of the night came full circle as she belted out the heartbreaking odyssey that is “Gravity” with just her piano (and a packed house of devoted fans) to keep her company.
Making its way back out into the Hollywood night, the crowd was aglow with the sentiments of this talented artist. It must have gotten the line forming for her second performance excited to see the expressions of the first audience. Bareilles would return to that stage soon, ready to leave another group of people completely breathless.