Sara Bareilles was quick to state the obvious at Thursday night’s sold-out show in Chicago, mentioning how close the audience was to the stage. The intimate Park West theater was the perfect location for the sixth stop on Bareilles’ Brave Enough tour. With no band or opening act, the show featured more than an hour and a half of stripped-down versions of classic hits and songs off her next album, which will be released in July. Bareilles’ powerhouse vocals filled the room, and during the between-song banter, she interacted directly with the audience.
The show featured a variety of songs, including hit singles such as “King of Anything” and “Love Song,” but there was also room for plenty of older material, including opening song “Love on the Rocks” and “Let the Rain.” The songs had unique arrangements, with Bareilles providing the music herself on the piano or guitar. The concert had a casual tone, with Bareilles simply walking up to the piano, saying hi to the audience and joking about someone having spilled a drink on stage already. After an audience request for “Undertow,” Bareilles said with a shrug, “Sure, I’ll sing it.” She warned everyone she hadn’t rehearsed this one and might stop if she starts messing up. After flawlessly belting out some of the song’s high notes, Bareilles paused and said she sounded horrible but continued. The song ended in its entirety with only one minor lyric flub. If you missed the audience member’s request, you would have assumed it was a rehearsed part of her set.
A standout moment was “Manhattan,” which gave fans an idea of what to expect from Bareilles’ next album, and if the song is any indication, they have a lot to look forward to. With Bareilles performing solo, there was definitely a lighthearted, mellow tone to the concert, but this song transitioned to a more serious side. Bareilles admitted the song is about both a breakup and her new move to Manhattan, and those aspects were captured in the incredibly poignant and beautiful lyrics. As Bareilles paused, letting her voice ring out, the audience paused as well, not wanting to clap too soon for fear of destroying the moment.
The audience cheered when Bareilles sang her new hit single “Brave,” which she wrote with Jack Antonoff of Fun. The song was inspired by a friend of Bareilles’ who was struggling to come out as gay. As part of the “Brave Enough” tour, she encouraged audience members to fill out postcards with something each member is brave enough to do. Bareilles told the audience she cries when she reads the postcards, which will be part of an art project she is working on. After she sang the inspiring song, done on piano with a fresh and fun feel, she said, “I do think we’re capable of more than we actually think we are.”
The encore set included the always beautiful “Gravity.” For Bareilles’ final song, she chose to do a cover of an Elton John classic, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” a song she loved listening to growing up.
The concert was unique and full of quirks, much like Bareilles herself, but these nice, not-so-subtle touches made the performance personal, with Bareilles noting she doesn’t like her concerts to have a “shtick.” At one point she remarked, “I’m weird tonight. … I’m embarrassed for me.” It is just that kind of honesty that makes Bareilles’ songs so real and her concerts so enjoyable. The background on stage was a picture of the windows in Bareilles’ apartment, which was fitting for a show that gave the audience a real glimpse into her world. It’s unusual for a singer who can boast chart-topping singles to present herself in such a real way, and it was a refreshing change and a truly special concert.