Concert review: Rachel Platten

Rising singer/songwriter Rachel Platten performs at Ebenezer's Coffeehouse in Washington, DC.

WASHINGTON, September, 13, 2011 —Big things are happening for Rachel Platten. The pop singer/songwriter from New York, by way Boston, has been gaining significant momentum lately with the release of her new album Be Here. When her set was finished at Ebenezer’s Coffeehouse just outside of Union Station in Washington, DC, it was obvious those big things were happening sooner rather than later.

Female singer/songwriters seem to be more prevalent than they actually are. The reason for this is when they hit big, or even score a minor hit, they get played everywhere. They seep into movies, commercials, and just everyday culture. Then hopefully they can build off the momentum created. There aren’t as many of them as one would think, it just feels that way.

The attention Rachel Platten is receiving strongly suggests this could be her future. As her show started, she has the talent to be more than just a pop singer who happens to be in the background to everyday life.

The first time Rachel Platten was on stage at Ebenezer’s wasn’t even for her own set. She appeared on the stage with opening artist Nick Howard for two songs prior to her actual set beginning. It was a preview of sorts for what she was going to play, exposing a bit more of her quirky side. “On Promise to Stay” she beatboxes during the middle of the song, which is the kind of offbeat display she embraces regularly.

By the time her set started properly a few minutes later, her personality was out in full force. While on stage she is the consummate entertainer. She has an innate urge to keep the audience involved with every song and she genuinely cares that they never lose focus on the show.

Platten’s extroverted personality takes form in several ways. The first of which is drawing the audience, directly referring to and complimenting them early and often, creating the effect of everyone being a part of the show and eventually she actively puts them in the show.

The set is treated as one continuous arc instead individual songs, which makes points where she pauses seemingly mid-song to either cover up suggestive lyrics from the one minor in the crowd or jokingly passing off a rendition of Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice” as her own when the song didn’t generate much of a reaction. She also unleashes slightly self deprecating humor at a moment’s notice, letting the audience know she’s having fun.

Being on stage appears to come naturally to her. She would be right at home singing at a jazz bar or any number of other intimate venues. Her connection with audience is authentic and complete.

Of course, her stage presence wouldn’t matter a bit if she wasn’t a talented songwriter and singer as well. Her songs toe the line between grounded intimate and big overflowing emotions. A song like “1,000 Ships” shows she’s able to pull off huge sounding pop numbers. It’s a song that’s garnering a lot of attention and it would be easy to dismiss if it weren’t for the clever lyrics and the huge chorus she hits. Like several other songs she plays, it would fit right in at the climax of a romantic comedy when the heroine declares her meaning of love.

The somber note the bigger pop songs take lyrically are matched by their upbeat tone. That split in the songs keep a refreshing level of optimism. The effectiveness of these songs are also helped greatly by drummer/touring partner Craig Meyer, who just adds to the big sound.

On the other side of the spectrum, she shows the ability to exist outside of the strictness pop. Songs like “All I Seem To” and “You Don’t Have Go” are modern R&B influenced numbers, showing that despite her knack for writing strong pop songs, it’s not a genre she’s going to be limited by.

Rachel Platten’s star is definitely on the rise but that doesn’t seem to be stopping her from appreciating her live performances. She might garner a significant amount of success but it’s hard to see her changing from the entertaining performer she was at Ebenezer’s Coffeehouse.

Stephen Bradley is an avid music listener. Read more of his work in Riffs at the Washington Times Communities.


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Stephen Bradley

Stephen Bradley is an avid music listener and an occasional writer.  He grew up in the Washington DC area and has been embedded in the local music scene for years.  Currently he lives in Vienna, VA.   He enjoys bands that have been broken up for at least a decade.

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