Sara Bareilles At The El Rey Theatre

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By Crystal Larsen
Los Angeles

Sara Bareilles' current Brave Enough Tour is as much of a challenge for the GRAMMY-nominated singer/songwriter as it is for her fans.

"It's very strange to be playing solo," said Bareilles, who admitted this was one of the scariest things she's ever done shortly after taking a seat at her piano to face a sold-out audience on May 14 at the El Rey Theatre. The tour features Bareilles performing intimate solo sets at select theatres across the United States, and takes its name from her recently released single, "Brave," which will appear on The Blessed Unrest, her new album due July 16.

"With the song 'Brave' I was really asking people to step up and be brave," said Bareilles later during the performance. "And I wanted to practice what I preach."

The evening began with Bareilles sheepishly taking the stage, clearly surprised by the hundreds of fans who stood waiting before her. "Holy s*** … there's a lot of you guys here," she exclaimed before kicking off her set with the Elton John-tinged "Love On The Rocks," which appropriately ended with a solid rendition of the chorus from John's "Bennie And The Jets."

As the night carried on, the audience and Bareilles become more comfortable in each other's presence, a testament to how naturally Bareilles connects with her fans. She engaged us in conversations about Taylor Swift's love life and Reese Witherspoon's recent run-in with the law, while also inviting us into that "sacred and private" place that is the stories behind her songs.

Highlights included a sing-a-long performance of her Song Of The Year-nominated "Love Song," a soulful cover of Otis Redding's "(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay," which she jokingly admitted to writing after falling on hard times in San Francisco, and "I Just Want You," an unreleased track Bareilles wrote specifically "for the exchange of me and you in a room together."

For a song that likely took a good amount of courage to stand up and perform as it only featured Bareilles' voiced backed by a ukulele, the lyrics to "I Just Want You" were enough to remind the audience that anything is possible as she sang, "The only way up is believing in never looking down."

Bareilles transitioned into "Come Round Soon," which showcased an impressive vocal range rarely showcased on her albums, followed by "Once Upon Another Time," a song about rediscovering the youthful feeling that anything is possible that featured chant-like vocals and a harmonium. After settling behind her piano again, she jumped into "Brave," which nicely tied the evening of encouragement and inspiration together as she sang, "Say what you wanna say/And let the words fall out/Honestly, I wanna see you be brave."

The encore began with a performance of the haunting "Gravity" and fittingly ended with John's "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road."

"Oh, I've finally decided my future lies/Beyond the yellow brick road," she sang.

After the performance the audience was invited to visit the merchandise booth where they were able to add their own endings to postcards that read, "I am brave enough to. … "

What are you brave enough to do?

Set List:
"Love On The Rocks"/"Bennie And The Jets" (Elton John cover)
"Love Song"
"(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay" (Otis Redding cover)
"Bright Lights And Cityscapes"
"Let The Rain"
"I Just Want You"
"Come Round Soon"
"Once Upon Another Time"
"King Of Anything"
"Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" (Elton John cover) 

To catch Sara Bareilles in a city near you, click here for tour dates.

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