Sara Bareilles Concert - Millikin University

It’s been two years since I had the opportunity to catch my favorite recording artist / performer, Sara Bareilles in concert. She sang an acoustic set on campus in early March, 2009. I guess she has a thing for college campuses in the spring, because I caught her again Tuesday night, this time at neighboring Millikin University’s Kirkland Center for the Performing Arts.

I am a bit forlorn that I didn’t try to sneak in my camera. The University website clearly stated “no photography or video recording allowed”, that “all bags are subject to search”, and persons in violation would be “removed from the venue”. Not wanting to break the rules, I left my big camera in the car. Heck, no one took a second look at my bag, and the students were all toting their cameras around in the auditorium. I did take in my daughter’s point and shoot camera, but after looking at the image rendering on the back screen (completely washed out stage), I didn’t even try.

I selected a seat in the balcony this time – by the time I learned about the performance, many of the good seats on the floor were already gone, and I got a front row balcony seat. The view was a little far back, but a really nice vantage point (totally reachable with a 100mm+ lens). I remembered to bring my little binoculars, enjoyed the view and was really jealous of the students in the front row.

The concert opened with two acts – soloist Ximena Sarinana and group Elizabeth and the Catapult. Both performances were likeable – very indie in feel – real musicians (no Ke$ha or Gaga or Katy Perry wannabes here, thank goodness) who really perform without all the antics.

While the crew was setting up for the main event, I took some time to “guess” the upcoming setlist. My predictions – open with Gonna Get Over You, then Uncharted and Hold my Heart. I predicted she would close with King of Everything and an encore performance of Gravity. I hoped I would get to hear Let The Rain and Between the Lines. I knew I would be subjected to Love Song (fine song, but I’d rather hear something else) at some point during the night, but I guess you don’t forsake what made you famous in the first place.

The actual performance:

  • The band took stage as the studio recording of Kaleidoscope Heart started in the background, with the stage lights pulsing on and off. I’m not sure if the light people were on top of things yet, because Sara was still in the dark as she started playing the beginning chords to Uncharted, which moved into her second song: Gonna Get Over You (OK, I was wrong with my opening guess - I just had it reversed).
  • Third song – a surprise – Love on the Rocks.
  • Fourth song – Love Song, which Sara encouraged everyone to sing along (no problem there), and it was fun to hear the song rise from the crowd.
  • Next song – Hold My Heart, with a great guitar solo by Javier Dunn during one of the chorus sections.
  • After Hold My Heart, Sara stopped to don a guitar, and I thought – yay, she’s going to sing Let the Rain. But instead, she played Basketcase (probably my least favorite of all her songs, probably because it is so different from her upbeat, jazzy style).
  • 7th song – a stripped down version of City (another favorite of mine) – just Sara and the piano. The twist - Sara wasn’t the one playing – her other keyboardist, took the seat at her piano and Sara sang standing behind the microphone, no doubt a position she isn’t accustomed to (see, even professional performers need to step out of their comfort zones). I love this song and the stripped down performance really highlighted her vocals.
  • The band members returned and sang a cover of Little Lion Man. The banter between her and the audience centered on her habit of swearing when she’s been told not to, and this song (of course) has the f-bomb in the chorus, so they took suggestions from the audience on what to replace it with. The song provided a fun segue into her next song – a rocking rendition of Machine Gun, a song aimed at harsh critics.
  • I didn’t recognize the next song – a reworked, amped up, bluesy Bottle It Up – until she was two lines into the lyrics. I like how she re-invents her music. It shows constant evolution and growth. It was rocking until the bridge and then it was all simple again, just Sara and the piano. I must find a video on You Tube! She used this song to introduce the talented members of the band – the same guys she’s been playing with for years – [several of them are on her Constant Confessions album].
  • Unfortunately, this act normally means the concert is nearly over –and I thought the next song, King of Anything, would be her last. It was another fun audience participation number – clapping and singing in harmony. Even the two ladies sitting next to me were grooving on it.
  • But I was wrong, as Sara didn’t leave the stage, but sat down at the piano to sing one of my favorites, Gravity. I think she performs this song as much as she does Love Song, however, I could listen to it again and again.
  • Gravity marked the official end of her set, and the crowd clapped and clapped until the band and the opening acts all came back on stage. The girl behind me was yelling “sing Many the Miles”, but when I saw her pick up the guitar, I knew Let the Rain would be the encore. Sara talked about how the song is about moving through the unknown (umm, I thought that’s what Uncharted was about), but to me, the song is about embracing change, letting go of the past.
If I my hands could hold them, you’d see
I’d take all these secrets in me
And I’d move and mold them to be
Something I’d set free

I want to darken in the skies
Open the floodgates up
I want to change my mind
I want to be enough
I want the water in my eyes
I want to cry until the end of time

I want to let the rain come down
Make a brand new ground
Let the rain come down
Let the rain come down
Make a brand new ground
Let the rain come down tonight
  • Finally, she sat at the piano again and performed the last song of the night – a cover of Coldplay’s Yellow. I liked the song, but I would have preferred to hear her sing Bluebird from the Kaleidoscope Album. Still, it was a great way to end the show.
So, how did this performance compare against the performance two years ago? The overall vibe in the auditorium was very different from the performance I caught two years ago. The entire floor level was on their feet, dancing around, hugging the stage and interacting with the band. The stage lighting pulsed and fanned around, like in a club. The music was definitely louder – sometimes too loud, as the bass or guitar would drown out the vocals and piano. I guess that is the difference between an acoustic tour and a full blown one. But with an artist like Sara, any performance will be an enjoyable one, and I feel fortunate to have attended last night’s concert. I even attended by myself (a Tuesday night is really hard for many of my friends to get away) because I knew getting Sara to the cornfields of Central Illinois isn’t going to be a common occurrence.

As for a picture, I am posting photos I found on flickr (remember – I didn’t bring the good camera in and I am still kicking myself about it). The pictures are from the talented Nicole Wamsley, taken at the Michigan concert the day after the Millikin one. I couldn’t find a single photo from the Millikin concert, so I figured this was close enough – even Sara’s outfit is very similar.

Sara Bareilles COPYRIGHT©Nicole Wamsley

Sara Bareilles, ©Nicole Wamsley
Nikki has some concert video footage she is working on. As soon as that gets uploaded, I’ll embed here, too.

If you remotely like Sara’s music, catching her live is a great experience and highly recommended. Life is too short to not get out and enjoy things that make you happy.

Lee Currie  – (April 8, 2011 at 5:17 PM)  

LOVE this, Shirley. Good for you having another opportunity to get to a concert. I've not heard of her coming here ... ever, but I really should be on the look out! Thanks so much for such a wonderful review :)

Lisa  – (April 8, 2011 at 11:32 PM)  

Fantastic. Oh how I adore her music and artistic talent. I so glad whe share this same passion for music also. Loved Love this Blog. Your photos are brillinat and made me smile big time.

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