by Jeff Niesel
Singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles calls New York home but last night at Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica she sounded so enthusiastic during her 90-minute set, you would have thought she was a Clevelander pumped about LeBron James’ return. In fact, during one moment in the set, she even donned a Cavs hat and offered up a sincere “congratulations” to fans, expressing her excitement about the NBA star’s return. Her ability to connect with the crowd that filled about three-fourths of the venue suggested the ways in which pure charm work to her favor and the set had a good, playful energy to it.
Given that her tour is dubbed “The Little Black Dress Tour” after one of her songs on her latest album, The Blessed Unrest, it was appropriate she sauntered onto the stage in a sleeveless black dress and black stockings and proceeded to play the piano ballad "Little Black Dress." “It’s a pretty fucking good day — I have a concert,” she said at the show’s start. She explained that, in addition to playing a good number of tunes from The Blessed Unrest, she would also play “re-imagined” versions of her older songs, and her six-piece band that included a mini string section (cello and violin) delved into “Love on the Rocks,” a moody, overwrought number from her 2005 debut Careful Confessions.
The songs from The Blessed Unrest fared better as they ran a wide gamut, drawing from jazz, pop and rock. Many of them chronicle, as she put it, “ the changes” that she experienced as she ended a long-term relationship and moved to a new city. The moody piano ballad “Hercules” came off particularly well; it had elements of Fiona Apple to it. She delivered “I Choose You” as a prickly but upbeat pop number. The set picked up steam as it went on too. Bareilles hammed it up for “That Guy’s An Asshole,” a whimsical kiss-off that sounded like something Ben Folds might have penned, dipped into some straight-up R&B for a cover of En Vogue’s “My Lovin’ (You Never Gonna Get It) and led the crowd on a sing-a-long for “King of Anything.” Her catchy first hit “Love Song” sounded strong as did the set closing “Brave,” one of the best anthems to emerge in the last few years. Images of the various fan-made YouTube videos for "Brave" played on a big screen while she belted out the tune. She even successfully pulled off a solo segment that found her covering the sultry Sia ballad “Chandelier.”
Two singer-songwriters — Emily King and Hannah Georgas — opened the show with 20-minute sets. With their bands in tow, each singer was able to show off her songwriting skills and each established a good rapport with the audience.