Sara Bareilles - Brixton Academy, London
American singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles released her major label debut Little Voice in 2007. The album was a huge success in the States and the UK, reaching the top ten in both countries and producing a smash of a single in the form of the extremely catchy "Love Song". Sara floundered slightly while trying to compose album number two's contents, suffering from a case of the "sophomore slump" but luckily her muse returned enabling her to deliver Kaleidoscope Heart to her fans back home in September 2010. The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, selling 90,000 copies in its first week, with lead single "King of Everything" earning Sara a gold record for its sales. Kaleidoscope Heart is released in the UK this month and to help her UK followers familiarise themselves with her new material Sara and her band have teamed up with old pals Maroon Five to play a host of dates around the country, including two nights at London's Brixton Academy.
I'd seen Sara perform three times previously and had picked her new album up on import at the end of last year so was looking forward to hearing some of the new material in a live setting in front of a very large gathering for an 8pm start. Miss Bareilles took to the stage, taking her place behind her piano, introducing herself and telling the crowd that the show was really special for her and the band as the first time they played in Europe was supporting Maroon Five on the Brixton stage five years ago so they'd come full circle.
The set opened with what Sara has previously called the centre piece of the new album and what I reckon to be one of the best songs on the collection "Uncharted", following it with a surprisingly early rendition of "Love Song" as I expected it to come much later. I suppose it really helped set her stall out for the evening as there were probably a few folk in the crowd who weren't hugely familiar with Sara's work but knew the song from its myriad plays on the radio, pulling them into the performance more. It seemed to work anyway as Sara's request for a sinaglong resulted in a large number of the audience blasting out the chorus!
That may have been true but the songstress admitted that all of her nerves had come rushing back being on the venue's stage again, telling us that maybe the next song would make her less nervous, removing herself from behind her keyboard taking herself out front of stage for Sara and the boy's take on Cee Lo's "Fuck You!" - the full uncensored version! This didn't come as a real shock to me as although Sara always comes across as one of the nicest girls in music she's also renowned for having a bit of a potty mouth! The song gave Sara a chance to show off her inner Rock Star persona, with the track segueing nicely into my favourite Kaleidoscope Heart song "Gonna Get Over You", probably the most infectious number on the album with its slight 50's tinged Doo Wop feel. The Brixton set was predominately pulled from Sara's second collection, with the more atmospheric "Hold my Heart" following alongside "Let the Rain" which saw the singer move from keyboards to guitar. After a brief band introduction new single "King of Anything" was unveiled, with a bit of audience hand clapping participation thrown in, with Sara's boy's bidding farewell on the song's completion.
Things got a bit more sombre after the band departed , leaving Sara alone behind her piano, bathed in a spotlight as she treated the audience to a rare rendition of her cover of Coldplay's "Yellow". Now I'm not a fan of the original and I wasn't overly fond of the cover, especially as Sara took a slight detour from the melody for the first half. I did warm to it a lot more towards the end as it was a really passionate rendition. I did laugh during the song though as I overheard two girls behind me still trying to work out what the cover was, even after the chorus. I did feel like turning round and shouting "She's already said - AND IT WAS CALLED YELLOW!".
After Sara completed her cover I had my fingers crossed that she'd stay behind her piano for one final song as I was desperate to hear "Gravity", a tune that never fails to work its charm. So I was delighted when the opening notes were struck up after Sara had said her goodbyes to the crowd. I did have to fight to block out the sound of a couple next to me arguing whether it was a good place to stand or not but I managed to zone them out so I could appreciate Sara's exquiste rendition of a song that I deem a real classic.
The first time I heard Sara playing it live was at SXSW in 2008, where it almost brought tears to my eyes. Now I admit I had been drinking, watching bands for over 12 hours at that point and suffering from jet lag but I'm sure it was the music that moved me! The Brixton peformance didn't quite have the same effect but it was still a perfect way to end a great set, with all the new material sounding just as good live as they do on the new album.