An intimate evening with Bareilles
OK, so she didn't win the Grammy. Sara Bareilles lost the award for song of the year to Coldplay a few weeks ago, but if it dampened her spirits, she certainly didn't let on at the Paradise Rock Club on Friday.
In fact, Bareilles's memories of the awards night were so effusive and sweet, it almost seemed like she did win the Grammy for her radio hit "Love Song." Seated in the seventh row at the ceremony with her mother rubbing elbows with rapper Busta Rhymes, Bareilles got to see her idols, U2, up close and personal. She barely missed the sunglasses Bono tossed into the crowd just above her head.
At the Paradise, she followed that story with a triumphant cover of U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," dedicated "to my future husband, Bono."
That's Sara Bareilles in just one song - even when she's not winning, she performs as if she is. And her new tour, which puts her in cozy rooms with vintage floor lamps scattered across the stage, couldn't be more flattering. Relaxed and engaging, Bareilles spent most of the evening behind her keyboard, with moments on the guitar.
The 29-year-old singer-songwriter, who sold out two consecutive nights at the Paradise, is used to playing much larger venues, including the Orpheum Theatre last year. But she's obviously reveling in the connection she makes with smaller crowds.
"Where my ladies at?," she asked early on, and a flash of the house lights revealed the ladies were easily outnumbering the guys. "Well, cool, because I'm a chick, too. This is for all the girls out there."
And guys, too. The misconception about Bareilles and her fellow sisters in song (Ingrid Michaelson, Rachael Yamagata) is that they appeal only to other women. Bareilles doesn't entirely fit that mold, though. Her breezy pop songs, informed by the California sun Bareilles grew up under, address universal themes of heartache and youthful desire. Hers just happen to spark big singalongs sung mostly by a choir of sympathetic females.
Bareilles, who titled her debut album "Little Voice," has exactly that. But she made judicious use of her instrument, ramping up to the showy notes only when she needed to, such as on "One Sweet Love" and the closing piano ballad "Gravity."
Her backing band also kept the show intimate, scrapping most of the heavy-handed production that tended to mar the more tenderhearted songs. The loose, gospel vibe of "Many the Miles" worked especially well with a stripped-down arrangement.
Tony Lucca, no slouch at eliciting cat calls from the ladies, opened with an acoustic set of soulful pop songs that suggested he was working hard - way too hard - to be heartfelt. Soul music shouldn't sound this self-conscious.
James Reed can be reached at email@example.com.