The Wisconsin Union Theater is not the typical place for mosh pits, especially at a Sara Bareilles concert. So it was no surprise that although everyone seemed excited for a great show, there was a relatively low-key atmosphere at the venue Saturday while people patiently waited in line to be ushered to their seats. The concert began less than five minutes after it was scheduled to, and it seemed like it was going to be a calm and collected show.
The demure atmosphere rang true even for the opening act, University of Wisconsin alum and folk artist Anna Vogelzang. Her style of singing brought forth the familiar feeling of enjoying live music at a coffee shop. She was accompanied by only a cellist and bassist, but that did not stop her from creating a rich sound with heavy acoustics. She herself played a wide variety of string instruments in addition to the banjo and the ukulele.
Vogelzang’s musical skill was most apparent in “Undertow,” a song mostly driven by the plucking of a thumb piano. The instrument almost sounded like a xylophone against her voice, and it was a creative addition to a mellow song.
Vogelzang was conversational with the audience, helping to add to the comfortable atmosphere of the small venue. Though the singer did not necessarily “rev up” the audience for Sara Bareilles, she really didn’t need to, as Bareilles’ mere presence on stage sent the audience into an eruption of screaming and clapping.
Sara Bareilles opened her performance with popular song “Love on the Rocks,” but it was her cover of “Single Ladies” that made the girl-dominated audience break out into laughter and applause. Even Bareilles noticed the demographic, joking before the song that if you were able to get a man to a Sara Bareilles concert, “that’s marriage material right there.” Although not the best rendition of the song, Bareilles made the cover all her own with fervent piano accompaniment and artistic vocalization. Her two guitarists and drummer also helped bring a great deal of energy to the music, and it was apparent from the expression on all of their faces they were having just as good of a time as the audience.
Her most impressive piece, artistically, was her a cappella rendition of “Gravity.” She hit every note, bringing forth an amount of passion and raw talent that is rarely seen in musical artists today. After holding a particularly high note, the audience went wild. Sara Bareilles simply smiled and waved after such a moving piece. She was so humble throughout her whole performance that it felt more like one was enjoying the company of a friend rather than a famous pop-rock artist.
A special addition to her set list was an unnamed song off her new EP. While announcing it had only been performed live once before, she said, in sarcastic good humor, that it didn’t matter if no one liked it. She then flipped her hair, joking, “I’ll toss my weave back.”
After a few particularly slow pieces, Bareilles apologized to the audience, saying she would only play a few more sad songs, as she was just feeling a little depressed lately. She explained it was because she really wanted to meet Betty White and she was a huge Golden Girls fan. She even dedicated the song “Basket Case” to her.” After incorporating Betty White’s name into the song, she couldn’t remember the lyrics, and happily just kept playing her guitar and laughing until she and her band could start the song again. Despite her mishap, her humorous comments in between such emotionally driven pieces made the overall atmosphere light and friendly.
Although the performance was fun to watch and Bareilles was personable with the audience, her show was short. She finished playing her set list after an hour, and came back to play a two-song encore. The entire show, including opener Anna Vogelzang, was over after two-and-a-half-hours, perhaps because Bareilles could not physically play any longer. It was apparent toward the end that her voice was becoming hoarse, which was understandable, as many of her songs featured her belting out sky-high, scale-defying notes. Despite appearing and leaving the stage in what seemed like the blink of an eye, Sara Bareilles brought an overall charismatic and enjoyable performance to Madison.