As Sara Hartman walked onto the stage on Friday night at Terminal 5, young girls throughout the sold out crowd chanted her name.
You wouldn’t know she was opening for headliner X Ambassadors by the anticipation budding in the audience at the drop of the lights. Those who weren’t aware of this 20-year-old singer-songwriter when they walked into the venue were quite aware by the time they left.
Hartman opened her strong six-song set with her most well known hit: “Monster Lead Me Home.” The song, and most of her others, feels as though it would be found on the soundtrack to a teen television drama, but one with a really smart music supervisor. From behind her guitar she moved a bit like Lorde but in a more natural way. With the big, curly hair and the long black skirt she wore, it would be easy to mistake her for a “Royals” era Lorde, but her voice is more reminiscent of Sara Bareilles. Her lyrics certainly reflect her age more than her low, smooth voice.
Hartman’s youth was most apparent during her dialogue in between songs where she won over the crowd with her sweet, girl-next-door vibe. “This is a very emotional night for me,” she said before explaining how excited she was to be playing in New York after she left a year ago for Berlin. People championed her because it would be hard not to root for someone so earnest. Which is not to say her music didn’t warrant the big applause she received. Her last number, “Two Feet Off the Ground” was the most interesting sonically. The band that came with her from her year-long German residency created a disco-ish groove which, when married with Hartman’s voice, created a sound that pushed her into territory not often covered by the current batch of female singer-songwriters.
As a performer, Hartman has room, but also time, to grow. It is tough to captivate a sold-out space filled with a diversely aged audience when you’re working with keys, a guitar, a drum set, and a voice. Robert Delong, the second opening act, bound around the stage like a kid on Ritalin as he created his electronic dance music. X Ambassadors produced sound and lots of it. Hartman’s music is perhaps better suited for a smaller, more intimate venue, but she made the most out of her time and provided enough with her music to make the lack of showiness almost unnoticeable. By the time she is headlining her own gigs to sold out audiences the kinks are sure to melt away; practice may not always make perfect but it sure helps.