When I first moved to Los Angeles, I was completely on my own in this new and giant city. I had no family in the state, let alone LA, and I didn’t know a single other person. The first thing I did was look up some of my favorite bands. I figured it was Los Angeles, and even if I didn’t know anybody else, I would be able to find a show with a singer I knew nearby. I started going to shows at the smaller venues to see up-and-coming singer-songwriters and slowly gained the confidence to make some friends. So when I went to see at Rachel Platten at El Rey Theatre Tuesday night, it felt like coming home.

My experience of growth and exploration seems to be one that is mirrored in Platten herself. Despite recent success, she is by no means an overnight sensation, and a lot of hard work, time, and moments of doubt built her up to the Wildfire she was onstage last night.

In between songs, Platten would smile at the crowd and tell them just how much their presence meant to her. As she stopped to take a moment to speak with the packed audience, she painted a very different picture of her life before her single “Fight Song” brought her to a show at El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles that sold out in less than 10 minutes.

“Last year I was performing at the Hotel Cafe to a crowd of about 30 people,” Platten said. “And now I was getting a spray tan the other day, and halfway through spraying ‘down there’ the lady looked up and asked, ‘Are you the ‘Fight Song’ girl?’ I was like, ‘No, ma’am. Not right now I’m not!'”

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Losing friends and I’m chasing sleep
Everybody’s worried about me
In too deep
Say I’m in too deep (in too deep)
And it’s been two years I miss my home
But there’s a fire burning in my bones
Still believe
Yeah, I still believe

Platten left her popular anthem for the end of the set, and as the crowd chanted “Fight Song. Fight Song. Fight Song.” she reappeared onstage for the second encore of the night to share this:

“We’ve come so far and from such a place that none of this seemed possible. I wrote this song when this did not seem possible at all. And I had no idea I would have a chance to play in a venue like this. It felt really far away from happening. But there must have been this voice in my heart that didn’t listen to the mean voices, and it still believed in me no matter what. I wrote this song in a moment when I needed to decide ‘Am I going to give up or am I going to keep fighting?'”

Since writing that song, it has gone on to be in the Billboard chart’s Top 100 songs for over 18 weeks now, peaking even within the top 10 songs! Platten’s success, drive, and constant ear-to-ear grin as she performed song after song with never-ending enthusiasm and joy was truly inspirational.

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Whether she was playing the piano, guitar, singing acapella, or even beatboxing, Platten had amazing stage presence. Her voice was varied and controlled, showing that she had talent and skill without resorting to endless vocal runs. She doesn’t apologize for her voice (nor should she) or cover it up with production. In fact, it was often best showcased when accompanied by only one instrument or completely by itself.

Rachel Platten’s story itself is an inspirational one, and she has the musical chops to back it up. You could tell she was at home on stage, and it made me feel at home in the audience listening to her. So, to paraphrase a line from my favorite song of the night: Rachel Platten, you left me speechless!

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Rachel Platten