Wednesday 11 June 2014

Sara Bareilles - Islington Assembly Halls, 1st June 2014

Sara Bareilles doesn't come to the UK very often..., we (my 21 year old daughter and I) had waited some time to see her. In fact, we'd rather forlornly promised ourselves that "If she ever comes to the UK, we'll go and see her".

If she'd chosen the NEC or O2, we probably wouldn't have bothered, but when a message appeared in my email saying "Sara Bareilles is playing Islington Assembly Halls" I did a triple take.

First - She was REALLY coming to the UK? Yes, she was! Secondly - where the hell is Islington Assembly Hall? Well, unsurprisingly it's in Islington, but it's hardly the best known venue in London.

Sara Bareilles is, as I write this, still best known in the UK for her early hit "Love Song" (here it is if you don't remember it)

but she's had a lot more success in the US and is a bit of a rising star there.

We arrived at 7 in Islington and found a long queue snaking down the street. It was moving painfully slowly, so we decided to come back. After a quick ice cream (a great shop just across the road) we came back and sat waiting for some time until it had subsided somewhat.

Bouncers were informing people there was no support act (no loss, generally) and she would be on at 9, some 1.5 hours away.

We sat down and waited a bit longer, but by 8 decided to go in.

The venue is very small (ok, not Jazz Cafe tiny, but much smaller than Shepherds Bush), but was pretty much full (A second night had been added after the first sold out quickly).

Pretty much at 9, Sara appeared, alone.

With just an upright piano (and stool) in the centre of the stage (there was a drum kit and electronic keyboard hidden away at the back) it was fairly clear this would be a fairly 'stripped' set.

Sara arrived and started with "I know, I don't come here enough!", which was warmly received by the audience who looked about 70% 20 something women with a fair number of men and older women there too.

She started with "Uncharted" and, after being joined by a couple of musicians, followed it with "Love On The Rocks" and the iconic "Love Song", all to rapturous applause. She was good, don't get me wrong, but it was clear a lot of people were just happy to be in the same room, listening to her.

Between songs, Sara foul-mouthed bantered, good-naturedly with the crowd (To those in the seats upstairs - "I guess you didn't get here early enough, did you? Don't hate me!"), which was a bit of a surprise (although probably not to those who follow her on Facebook), but she smiled sweetly and got away with calling her audience "Fuckers" at least twice.

The set was pretty much a 'greatest hits' one, with some tracks from the most recent (is it really "new" still?) album, including the massive US hit "Brave" and "I Choose You", which is a bit twee when you read the lyrics, but just seems joyous when you hear it (especially live), and some from her previous two albums.

"Hercules" and "Gravity" (quite personal songs) were performed with feeling and then we had a couple of covers - "Blood Bank" by "Bon Iver" ("My favourite band", Sara told us, but neither my daughter nor I recognised the song) and "Sittin' on the Dock of The Bay" (If you don't know who that is, hang your head in shame!). Both were quite moody and dark, but the latter was a worthy (and different) cover version (I hate straight covers).

"Parking Lot" was performed for someone in the crowd and I'd never heard it before, so I've no idea if it's Sara's material or another cover, but she rounded out with "King of Anything" and "Brave"

Of course, we went through the tedious pretence of an encore, but oddly, she came back on alone and performed just one song, "Come Round Soon", which was a great performance and a worthy (if short) encore.

So, no support act, a long trip to North London and a short encore - Did I feel short changed?

No, it was a rare chance to see a great Singer/Songwriter do a pretty intimate concert. When she comes back she'll be at the O2 or the Albert Hall and I won't go, so I'm more than happy to have made the trip and, most of the time, support acts are terrible...


Love On The Rocks
Love Song
Chasing The Sun
Blood Bank (Bon Iver cover)
Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay(Otis Redding cover)
I Choose You
Parking Lot
King Of Anything

Come Round Soon

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