Review: Sara Bareilles charms the Mohegan Sun

by MIKE CHAIKEN

EDITIONS EDITOR

Sometimes, well many times, an artist in concert prefers to let the music do the talking. They may offer some prepared between songs patter. They may even offer up some periodic acknowledgement of appreciation to the crowd.
But no matter how pleasant, it’s clear their actions are taken because they know it’s expected of them.
At Sara Bareilles’s show at the Mohegan Sun Arena on Oct. 12, her conversational approach did not seem like an obligation. Her rapport seemed genuine in its off-the-cuff approach. She clearly was over the moon to stand before a packed house and to experience the loving appreciation of her fans. Her stage patter was driven by her own joy over the opportunity to perform.
The show was much more intimate than what one would expect from an arena show inside a casino. At times, Bareilles seemed as if she were on stage in cabaret show at a small club hidden away inside New York City. This is truly a testament to her winning personality as well as her tunes.
Intimacy is a definite plus for Bareilles. Her music fits most comfortably in small places.
Even though some songs will offer a pop appropriate beat or crescendo like “Love Song,” “Brave” or “King of Anything,” most of her songs are subtle with different musical textures moving in and out.
One of the highlights of the evening was her suite of songs from her stage musical, “Waitress.” She performed “Soft Place to Land,” “You Matter to Me” and “Bad Idea.” The songs demonstrated Bareilles’s facility with different musical traditions, but none of them typical for a Broadway show. The songs also demonstrated her ability to build texture into her arrangements.
Songwriting is definitely key for Bareilles. Her melodies and lyrics offer small tales rather than grand and broad themes. We hear about a woman stirring cinnamon in her coffee as she ponders a man she once wanted (“Poetry by Dead Men“). We step inside a tale of a woman saying farewell to a narcissist when she realizes he’s no good for him (“Wicked Love”).
The audience was filled with women and that’s probably due to Bareilles ability to write about women from a strictly women’s point of view. It’s a pure voice that clearly is relatable to her fans.
The one dimension of her show that impressed me most was her ability to express such pure emotion with her voice. There were several moments during the course of the show where I was on the verge of shedding a tear. Her performance of “Orpheus” from her latest album “Amidst the Chaos” had me closest to the edge.
Another testament to how entertaining the show was I never felt the desire to take out my phone and check my email or social media. Her performance had me focused on what was on stage and not what was happening in cyberspace.
Sara Bareilles is not one of those artists who light up social media or entertainment news shows. She is low-key and modest. But her show at the Mohegan Sun Arena demonstrates that the singer-songwriter’s talents loom large.
Emily King opened for Sara Bareilles with a charming intimate set that offered a hint of what was to come when the headliner took the stage. King performed a set of soulful jazzy music that reminded me of some of the smooth R&B groups, such as Loose Ends and Five Star, that seemed to drop from the sky out of London in the 1980s. Her sound was more organic that the sounds typically found on the hot list of streaming music found on the web today.
PHOTOS by MIKE CHAIKEN

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