The historic Greek Theatre was home to pitch-perfect pop rock this past Wednesday, September 11th, as Sara Bareilles and OneRepublic played to a sold-out crowd. It was a match made in headliner heaven as piano rock and vocal acrobatics took center stage on that cool September evening. Both artists noted how important Los Angeles was to them, making the energized crowd that much more excited to cheer the performers on.
Singer-songwriter and pianist Sara Bareilles happily took the stage in a whimsical tutu and began the opening chords of the uplifting “Chasing The Sun” off her latest release, The Blessed Unrest. Bareilles began almost every emotional song that evening quietly, her velvety voice accompanied solely by her grand piano, before building each with the help of a full backing band, including a keyboardist and two cellists, to a thunderous crescendo that filled the amphitheater. She exclaimed to the crowd, “I’m fucking nervous! This is the most important show of the tour for me!” and explained that Los Angeles had been her home for fourteen years before relocating to New York (the mention of which was met with a playful cheer of “boos”).
While Bareilles’ voice and lyrics are sweet enough to give you a toothache, her profanity-ridden set (“I’m swearing because I’m nervous!”) included a mix of old and new songs, including “How Am I Gonna Get Over You” (with an improvised string of “motherfucking douchebag”s) and “Many The Miles.” Bareilles is the queen of heartbreakingly personal songs and opened up to the thousands of concertgoers about the struggles she’s been through in a happy, upbeat manner. Before launching into the powerful “Hercules,” she told the crowd, “I spent a lot of last year in a lot of heartache and making difficult personal changes and I wrote these songs to help me become stronger.”
Bareilles held out impressive notes throughout the evening, commiserating with the audience over ex-boyfriends and struggling with self-esteem and identity. She jokingly told the crowd, “I write myself a lot of pep talk songs. I think I’m depressed,” before beginning her cheerful anthem “Uncharted.” Ballads like “Gravity” and “Manhattan” were invigorated with sadness as Bareilles’ crystal-clear, angelic voice enveloped the crowd, accompanied by strings and backup vocalists to complete her goosebump-inducing harmonies.
She announced, “You’re the shit, LA. This is one of the most amazing venues in the world,” before strumming the guitar to her bubbly love song “I Choose You.” She demonstrated incredible vocal control through the anthemic “Brave” (a song about being “exactly who you are every moment of every day and that’s what I wish for each of you”) and Elton John cover closer “Yellow Brick Road,” belting out the longest and highest notes of the evening. It was an impressive set from the bubbly singer that demonstrated her impressive vocal ability, excellent songwriting skills, and courageous decision to share her personal struggles with her audience.
OneRepublic’s riotous set began behind a backlit sheer curtain as the band played the appropriately titled rock song “Light It Up” off their recent album Native. When the curtain dramatically dropped, the crowd went wild as the black-clad rock band launched into a string of their biggest hits, including “Secrets” and “All The Right Moves.” Lead vocalist Ryan Tedder briefly paused to address the cheering crowd, announcing, “Before I get too sappy, I want to say we’ve played every venue on the Sunset Strip starting ten years ago, and we talked about playing here. So this is like our matriculation.”
OneRepublic has been a Top Forty hit powerhouse over the past few years and brought popular songs “If That’s What You Wanted” and “Stop and Stare” to the hungry crowd. Lead vocalist Ryan Tedder ran from side to side of the stage, barely stopping to catch his breath as his vocal acrobatics struggled to keep up with his movement. The Mexican-infused, poppy “Counting Stars” was a crowd favorite as Tedder’s voice was overwhelmed by female audience members singing along.
When Tedder took a break from his constant bouncing around, his voice steadied and moments at his neon-lit piano were magical, such as during the band’s breakout hit “Apologize,” which was paired with Brent Kutzle cello work. That track bled into Macklemore’s “Same Love,” which, in Tedder’s opinion, was “one of the best songs of the past few years.” The powerful ballads continued with the emotional “Come Home,” demonstrating Tedder’s ability to effortlessly flip into falsetto.
Ever the fan of covers, OneRepublic then dug into their piano-infused, riotous rendition of Kanye West’s “Gold Digger.” Tedder belted out vocals and nearly destroyed his piano before returning to OneRepublic classics such as “Can’t Stop” and “Good Life,” which in turn bled into M83’s “Midnight City.” The speedy encore consisted of their rousing “Feel Again,” “Life In Color,” and hit song “Lose Myself.”
Both headliners stunned the audience with their powerhouse performances and incredible vocal talent. The Greek was filled with finely tuned pop rock music that captivated the crowd, and as the concertgoers filed out, it was hard to believe the evening was over already. But then again, the talented Sara Bareilles and energetic OneRepublic could have played all night, and it still wouldn’t have been enough.
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