Sara Bareilles may not be the biggest name in pop music, but she sure is one of the most talented. Since breaking through in 2007, Bareilles has had all five of her albums land in the top 10 of the Billboard 200 album chart (including Kaleidoscope Heart reaching number one), five singles appear in the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and she wrote all of the music and lyrics for the hit Broadway musical Waitress. On Saturday night, she made a triumphant return to Los Angeles at the Hollywood Bowl, her first appearance on tour in six years (she’s had a fewer smaller gigs here and there in L.A. during that time). The tour, named after her most recent album Amidst the Chaos, not only spotlighted Bareilles’ infectious personality, but provided fans with a great retrospective of her entire career.

Overall, Bareilles seemed to be having a quieter, more subdued night vocally, adding a lot of jazzier sounds to her set. Of course she had some belty moments as well, but perhaps not quite as many as she usually does. She seemed in good spirits, happy and content and even discussing how she recently fell in love. But most strikingly, she seemed to make a genuine connection with the town that she used to call home, where she paid some of her dues years ago. She mentioned a few L.A. mainstays from her time living here, like going to open mic nights at Molly Malone’s Irish Pub and of course getting her undergrad degree from UCLA.

She began the night by confessing that she was the most nervous about her L.A. show, but later admitted that she loves coming back because it “feels like home.” She called the Bowl on Saturday night a “place of love” and said that playing there almost made her cry because she feels like she grew up in L.A., so she’ll never forget the night. It’s common for artists to tell the crowds how amazing they are or how much they love the city they’re in, but Bareilles’ emotions seemed 100 percent real and the love being transferred between her and the audience was palpable. In fact, during “I Choose You,” there was a surprise marriage proposal in the crowd. Many were confused when they heard screams erupt from the bench sections behind the boxes, including Bareilles herself who said after she finished singing that she “heard some shit in the middle of the song” but chose to ignore it because she was afraid she’d forget the words otherwise. She then asked the couple to light themselves up and congratulated them, joking that they can name their relationship Sara. 

Bareilles touched on current events a few times as well, the first when discussing how she wrote her latest album after the 2016 presidential election. “I’m just glad everything’s better now,” she said sarcastically with a wink, wink. In fact, Bareilles’ between-song banter was just as entertaining as her singing — many may not be aware of her incredible humor and wit, but she certainly showed that off at the Bowl. Bareilles also discussed going to D.C. for the Women’s March, which she said “profoundly changed” her because she “never felt safer and more seen and heard.” She went onto to say that to be alive at this time, when there been this shift in consciousness about what it means to be a woman, is “super fucking important.” She proclaimed that she was proud to be a feminist and proud to be surrounded by a community of both men and women who lift each other up. 

Bareilles even showed off some of her community on stage by calling numerous people up to perform with her, including her opening act and former neighbor Emily King to duet on “If I Can’t Have You,” the Milk Carton Kids for “Someone Who Loves Me” and her album producer T-Bone Burnett for “Orpheus,” a powerful last song before the 2-song encore. She also allowed her live band and back-up singers to shine, giving them each numerous moments to show off their incredible talents. The most striking moment was when her musical director Rob Moose kicked off the encore with an incredible violin solo that led into a performance of “Gravity.” 

(Randall Michelson Photography)

Another highlight was the suite of four songs from Waitress, which Bareilles said “reoriented” her life. She ended up the suite with a powerful performance of “She Used to Be Mine,” which Bareilles performed solo on her piano, sans the band. Perhaps the other most noteworthy moment of the show was when Bareilles performed her hit “Brave.” She explained to the audience that it was “a love letter to a friend struggling” and that she’s so happy the song has taken on a life of its own since its release. “[I’m proud that this] song belongs to everybody else [now],” she said, adding that it taught her a lot about people in general, including her fans and friends. “Speaking of Pride,” she said cheekily before playing the famous first line, “You can be amazing…”. For those who may not have known, Bareilles has said in numerous interviews that the 2013 single was inspired by her close friend’s struggles with coming out. But in case the message wasn’t clear, for the final choruses, Bareilles belted out “I wanna see you be brave” as the entire outline of the Bowl turned rainbow-colored. It was inspiring to see.

Of course Bareilles’ voice was perfection all night, crisp and powerful in all the right places, even if she chose to take more quiet moments than usual. “That was fucking unreal,” Bareilles said to the audience after everyone in the crowd held up their cell phone flashlights during her performance of “Uncharted” and “No Such Thing,” but really she could’ve been talking about the entire evening. The almost two-hour performance, with little theatrics or over-the-top antics, presented a talented singer-songwriter who made 17,000 people feel like they were just hanging out with her in her living room. By the time she ended her encore with “Saint Honesty” from her latest album, which found the some of the sheets falling from the paper prism that lit up behind her in different colors all night, we weren’t ready to say goodbye. Bareilles confessed that it was a “long, long, long road” to get to where she was tonight, so let’s hope that her road takes her back to her home away from home of Los Angeles as much as possible.

 

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