Let me start with a confession: I’ve seen Sara Bareilles five times. I saw her Broadway debut in Waitress. I saw her at the Lilith Fair reboot. I’m excited for every single one of her developments and an admirer of her work.
Her show at the Hollywood Bowl was the best I’ve ever heard her.
Sara started with “Fire,” metaphorically and literally lighting up the Bowl with sound and a paper songwriting display. I was blown away. At some point, I realized I wasn’t taking photos just for social media; I was taking photos for preservation. And after a while, I just sat, enveloped in sound, trying to keep it together.
The gift? A vintage microphone and special guest The Milk Carton Kids. Sandwiched between the “kids” and layered in guitar sounds, Sara Bareilles did the impossible: She silenced the bowl. With one microphone. It was one of many moments that paused the chaos in our world.
Amidst the Chaos of New York and LA.
Opener Emily King, who Sara promised would burn our faces off, lives in the “place that everyone left” and is actually Bareilles’ neighbor in her recently adopted city of New York. Prior to the Big Apple, Bareilles spent 14 years in Los Angeles, including undergraduate at UCLA. Bareilles confessed that she was the most scared about the Los Angeles show, but she looked the most comfortable I’ve ever seen her. Tossing her hair back, and nailing her look into space like a director has told her where to look, Sara was in her element. She managed to make the Bowl feel like both the largest and the most intimate of venues at the same time.
Amidst the Chaos, a proposal
Midway through “I Choose You,” the audience roared unexpectedly. While Bareilles rocked a tambourine, a flurry of phones whipped out with the flashlights turned on: a couple got engaged in the back of the venue. Bareilles heard the commotion, though she didn’t stop because she thought she might forget the words.
Amidst the Chaos, there’s Beauty and Fire
The T Bone Burnett produced Amidst the Chaos has a different mix than the rest of Sara’s albums. Live, on-stage, the songs had new life aloud with a full band and a set of strings (and Burnett himself came to join for a tune). Though the new life might not have heated up the Bowl, where Sara was “slowly dying of hypothermia,” the lyrics of fire brought new meaning in a chilly night in LA:
Someday I, I won’t have to feel the cold
But I do now, so I’ll know
What it feels like when I feel fire, fire
Amidst the Chaos, Sara B writes for us
As she launched into her anthem “Brave,” Sara shared that the best part of being a songwriter is when a song belongs to everyone else. “She Used To Be Mine” was written for Waitress’s main character Jenna, though it became a metaphor and a story for Sara during her transition to New York. She said, she “wrote it for both of us.” But I would argue that the song is written for all of us too; a reminder of where we’ve been and where we can go.
There’s a moment in “Gravity” where Sara belts a note. It’s stunning and it’s a reliable moment of applause. And in the number of times I have seen her, she had never missed that note. And this time was no exception. It echoed across the bowl, another moment, amidst our chaos.