You know you’re in for an interesting evening when Rachael Yamagata and her five-member band walk on stage accompanied by an instrumental rendition of Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing In the Name Of”. The incongruity is enough to make you smile (and nod along), as many of Rachael’s songs are actually about break-ups, and sadness and moving on, with sultry, piano-driven melodies. But maybe in using Rage’s song you could find a deeper nod to the current state of our country.
Rachael Yamagata, born in Arlington, Virginia, played a full range of atmospheric and melancholy laced songs for the intimate 9:30 Club crowd on Thursday, November 12th.
She is working on her next album, due in 2016, and as she told us, “The new record is super close. It’s a positive record, so you’re going to think, ‘What happened to her? She got happy.'”
Situated by the bar house right, I was pleasantly surprised to see a ‘buffer zone’ open up around me to better enjoy the show. A lamp sitting on the bar illuminated me. In fact in the dark and cozy club, I was the only one in the crowd with a spotlight. You will soon find out why this matters.
Rachael started off the show sitting at her keyboard before moving to the standing microphone for “Over”, a new song. She played at least two new songs throughout the night, but I didn’t catch the name of the other.
“Dealbreaker” is a languid, almost country-like ballad that she introduced as, “Let’s bring it down a second. This is about spiritual growth. This is my heartbreak one.”
Over midway through her set, she sang “You Won’t Let Me” and told a story of walking along a beautiful beach at sunset listening to this song, which had just been released, before coming across a dead baby whale. Now dubbed the ‘dead baby whale song’. Despite that story, this song was among the strongest and most beautifully played over the course of the evening.
But maybe I was influenced. During the song before that (which the title escapes me), she encouraged the crowd to clap along. She walked from one side of the stage to other, getting my fellow audience members in on the act. I was slow to the party though. On her way over house right she said, “Everybody clap. I’m looking at you!” And indeed she was looking right at me, in the spotlight, not quite clapping. I quickly reformed my ways.
Rachael seemed to enjoy telling stories and vignettes for each of her songs. Or offering up quick observations of the crowd, like the couple making out in the back that included butts being slapped. It made for a more personal atmosphere and let us know she does have a sense of humor, whether that is reflected in the music or not.
She ended the set (before the encore), with “Be Be Your Love”, a sultry power ballad about love for someone and the desire to be with them, but it’s not possible.
I enjoyed the show and look forward to listening to this ‘happy’ new record when it comes out next year. I promise to clap along.