Concert review: Sara Bareilles charms with heart and humour

American singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles' latest Singapore gig proved to be a life-changing experience - for one couple, in particular. -- PHOTO: JOANNA KWA 
American singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles' latest Singapore gig proved to be a life-changing experience - for one couple, in particular. -- PHOTO: JOANNA KWA 

American singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles' latest Singapore gig proved to be a life-changing experience - for one couple, in particular.

Towards the end of the sold-out concert on Wednesday night, Bareilles shone the spotlight on a member of the audience, introducing him as "Fir" and inviting him to take the floor.

Quickly, the scene unfolded, with Fir getting down on one knee and proposing to his visibly-shocked girlfriend, while the star of the show - it being the last stop on her Little Black Dress tour - looked on with absolute glee.

"He's been writing to us, asking us to write this (proposal) into the show," Bareilles, who played her maiden show here in 2011, revealed as the target shyly accepted.

Then, she deadpanned with a grin: "He loves you very much. Or he just likes attention."

It was exactly this effortless combination of heart and humour that had all those who had flocked to the Esplanade Concert Hall - a very enthusiastic bunch in their 20s and 30s, including those who'd flown in from around the region - eating out of the palm of the California native's hand.

Part troubled troubadour and part stand-up comic, Bareilles' larger-than-life personality, coupled with that absolute showstopper of a voice, certainly made for one heck of a memorable show.

In fact, the clear juxtaposition between the 34-year-old's impish jokes and soul-baring, often melancholic music was never jarring, but endearing, throughout the 100-minute show. Oftentimes it felt like one was hanging out - chillin', really - at a friend's house.

The set-up was bare-bones. Grammy-nominated Bareilles, who is of Italian, German, Portuguese and French descent, flitted between her piano and guitars.

Providing back-up were percussionist Steve Goold and multi-instrumentalist Misty Boyce, who had earlier wowed with a delightfully earnest and emotive five-song opening set of gut-wrenchers.

Diagnosing herself as having a case of "verbal diarrhoea", the kooky singer, who was dressed in a black-and-white polka-dot dress with black tights, and wearing a fedora, punctuated each tune with life stories, one-liners and a plethora of hearty guffaws.

Still, where lesser singers might have used humour as a distraction, there was no risk of Bareilles' stream-of-consciousness chattiness taking away from her sheer musical talent.

Displaying astounding vocal control and an impressive range, each song was handled flawlessly, fluid and malleable in her care.

The more upbeat hits, such as breakout single Love Song (from her 2007 album Little Voice) and the tour's title track (from 2013's The Blessed Unrest) garnered zealous sing-alongs from the enthusiastic audience.

A solo acoustic cover of Australian singer Sia's smash hit Chandelier - brought down a key or two but still the cause for some major vocal acrobatics - also drew massive cheers.

But the real magic was in the slower tunes. On the jazzy Love On The Rocks (2007), Bareilles' powerful twang, rich and full, hit both highs and low notes with aplomb.

The bluesy Come Round Soon (2007) saw her wielding an electric guitar and holding pitch-perfect notes for what seemed like forever.

One could have sworn one could hear hearts collectively swell then ebb during the nostalgic, confessional Manhattan (2013), which Bareilles revealed was written just after getting out of a long-term relationship.

Before you knew it though, Bareilles was ready to launch into the expletive-laden, yet melodically saccharine-sweet, Sweet As Whole (say the title out loud to get the idea).

She warned cheekily: "There's a lot of swear words, so if you brought children, that's your fault."

In a reputable, upstanding venue like the Esplanade, the song sounded terribly out of place - but that was, in a strange way, part of its charm.

And may we just say, Ms Bareilles, you certainly have that in spades.

stlife@sph.com.sg