Thursday, September 29, 2016
Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine
I have a lot of love for Rachael Yamagata. Her 2004 album, Happenstance, played on repeat in my car for a solid year. I saw her once in September of 2005 at my alma mater, so it had been over a decade since I’d seen her live. Now touring to support her new Tightrope Walker album, I was very excited to be able to see Rachael in Portland (much to the chagrin of my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu instructor, whose class I had to skip to get to the show on time!).
I arrived at Port City Music Hall towards the end of opener Pressing Strings’ set. I don’t have much of a recollection of them two and a half weeks later, but I do remember they did a cover of “Going to California” that I thought was really good.
Rachael Yamagata and her band took the stage to a small, but obviously loyal crowd. Rachael was a little under the weather, and had been encouraged not to talk too much between songs (which was clearly a struggle for her). I was thrilled to hear “Be Be Your Love” from Happenstance early in her set. It made my day. She told us that “I Don’t Want to Be Your Mother” was about her tendency to date men who need a lot of support, which women in the crowd near me chuckled and shared knowing glances about while Rachael introduced the song. I thought “Over” was great live. Rachael pushed her voice (I hope she was okay in the days that followed) and covered Roy Orbison’s “Blue Bayou,” which sounded lovely.
Rachael’s band was great, too. Her drummer was leaving soon to tour with William Fitzsimmons (who I LOVE), Brandon Walters played bass and is in Lord Huron (seriously!), Michael Chavez on lead guitar has toured with Rachael forever, and Grammy nominated producer John Alagía played piano and guitar. Rachael was charming and open and her voice cuts right through.
Her last song, “Nobody,” is about “going for it” and she sampled Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” in there, too, which was an unexpected, welcome surprise. The grateful audience cheered for an encore and Rachael came back and played “Elephants” solo. People in the crowd shouted out requests and Rachael seemed happy to hear them and tried to oblige. She also sang a song for local music maven Aimsel Ponti, who is a longtime Rachael fan and was also at the show. Aimsel also made my day by telling me that Rachael had recorded an entirely acoustic version of Happenstance that was for sale at the merch table. So Happenstance is happily back in my car on repeat, and it holds up beautifully, twelve whole years later! So glad I made it to this show!
P.S.–Check out the video for “Let Me Be Your Girl”–written/directed by Josh Radnor and starring Allison Janney!