Singer-songwriter and newly
for the ladies
March 29 at
Schine Student Center.
Bareilles bottle-rocketed to fame this
year after her iTunes hit “Love Song” was featured in a commercial for
Rhapsody.com, in which Bareilles serves as a human jukebox and plays
that tune, as well as “Bottle It Up,” a catchy, Jack Johnson reduction.
The fact that Bareilles’ notoriety has come so swiftly has left music
critics and bloggers wondering from where the music world’s new
princess harkens. It turns out she was chummy with Kara’s Flowers, an early Maroon 5 lineup, while growing up in Eureka, Calif.
Epic, Bareilles’ label since 2005, has
sent her on tour to get the word out about the fact that she has indeed
written more than two songs, and even has a little bit of a knack for
live performance. The tour stopped at Syracuse University’s Schine Student Center
on March 29 as part of the school’s Women’s History Month events, much
to the chagrin of the college’s late-teen girls who seemed to find
solace in the figuring-things-out sensibilities of Bareilles’ new album
Bareilles started with “Bottle It Up,” a
preface during which she casually boasts about her talent, then laments
the false artifice of the modern music industry: “There are girls
across the nation who will eat this up/ Babe I know that it’s your soul
but could you bottle it up.”
That vibe segued into “Vegas,” which
sums up the feelings of 20-somethings who have had the inclination to
sell their cars in order to move to the greener grass of a larger city
with the cash. Not surprisingly, the college crowd seemed to cling to
and sing along with all of Bareilles’ words, especially emoting during
the transient, soul-searching parts of the songwriter’s stories.
Bareilles accompanied herself on piano for the majority of the concert, while Javier Dunn strummed rhythm guitar and Josh Day
played light percussion on the cajon. Considering the size of Schine it
might have been nicer to see Bareilles take advantage of a full band.
Yet with respect to the uncanny speed of her celebrity ascent, perhaps
even Bareilles’ tour managers haven’t quite figured out what to do with
That lack really came across in “Love On the Rocks,” a
song Bareilles co-wrote with Dunn (perhaps a hint at a prior love
affair between Dunn and the pop cutie). With its “Bennie and the Jets”
vamp and Latin rhythms, the tune would have greatly benefited from the
accents of a spot-on drum kit, a flair not provided by Day’s light
support. Regardless, the song’s whimsical, star-crossed love story
fetchingly hints at Bareilles’s sexual self-esteem (“You’re a lovely
creation/ I like to think that I am too”) and her contradicting desire
to engage in fated romances (“You love the chase but hate me for the
runaround/ We both just tired of the whole thing.”)
Bareilles’ live act, alas, placed
emphasis on the fact that her piano-forte skills are not her forte.
Whereas Norah Jones or even jazz chanteuse Diana Krall can convincingly
pull off self-accompaniment with gusto, Bareilles mostly went through
the motions on the ivory bars, sans solos or pomp.
But Bareilles at least seemed to have
fun with the audience, which seemed to be on its worst behavior. During
a quiet moment between songs one heckler mocked, “I wrote you a love
song, baby!,” referencing Bareilles’ hit. The singer replied, “No shit!
Get him a mike!”
That fun continued during Bareilles’
rendition of the Beatles’ “Oh! Darling,” as well as during a cover of
Christina Aguilera’s “Genie In a Bottle” in a funeral dirge style that
seemed to make a statement about a line being drawn between the
stylistic likes of creative pop femmes and the corporate burnouts of
the late 1990s. Of course, Bareilles is at least as girly as any
average American Idol alumnus, revealed when she later told SU fans, “I really wish I would have worn orange, but it didn’t go with my shoes!”
Almost to the point of ridiculousness, the crowd
demonstrated how much a part of the iTunes generation it was when girls
squealed in unison to the lyrics of Bareilles’ “Love Song,” slipped in
during an unexpected moment. Bareilles herself seemed a bit surprised
by the sing-along: “Some people don’t get to have that sensation when
people sing your music. It’s so fucking cool!”
As Bareilles pulled the evening’s
entertainment to a close with her own tune, “Many the Miles,” something
in the diva-to-be’s enthusiasm hinted that there may be more to her
than meets the eye. But if her Syracuse performance says anything it’s
that Bareilles will need to get over her iTunes roots and dig deep into
the soul she’s already been asked to “bottle up” in order to prove she
has staying power beyond her popularity bump.