Concert preview: Rachel Platten

VIENNA, Va., June 7, 2012 –It’s been over a year since Rachel Platten released her full-length debut album Be Here. Since then there’s been quite a shift in the notoriety she’s gained. On the strength of singles like “1,000 Ships” and “Nothing Ever Happens,” her star definitely seems to be on the rise. People attending her show at Jammin Java in Vienna, Virginia this past Sunday will have an easy time understanding why.

Despite the moderate level of success Rachel Platten has gained over the past year or so, she still seems most comfortable playing at club venues like Jammin Java. The relatively intimate setting here seems the perfect place to showcase her songs and specific brand of stage presence. It’s the in-between ground of a sit down venue and a real movement oriented club, one that’s easily accustomed to the laid back atmosphere a singer/songwriter like Platten prefers.

Be Here is a nice pop album, with several straight pop gems on it. At its best, it proves that Rachel  has an ear for crafting catchy songs with themes that broadly resonate. The best moments of her best songs on this album are those that encompass the sweeping yet somewhat simplified nature of her vocals. The songs sound big enough to inspire the necessary emotion required by her lyric themes. Yet their architecture is also stripped down compositionally to the point where the songs aren’t overbearing for the average listener.

This is an important quality for someone who relies on a two-person set-up during her live performances, this time along with drummer Craig Meyer. If she had tried to overexert herself on the album, some rather large positives to come out of it, but it would have ended up making her live set seem cumbersome and unwieldy. For someone who is at home during her live performances this, in turn, might have created a negative.

Although her real strength still remains in playing and crafting more traditional pop songs, this  doesn’t mean she refuses to venture outside of the box. She is willing and able to mix R&B and hip-hop into her songs with her normal pop music verve, which adds a level unpredictability to not only her songs but also her set as whole. If the crowd is lucky on a given night, she might even beatbox. That’s not necessarily spontaneity because she has a pretty clear idea of what she’s doing, but it’s enough to keep the audience on their toes while keeping her set from ever becoming stale. 

Of course the real lynchpin of a Rachel Platten show is the singer herself. It seems obvious to say that the singer is the focal point of her set, but there are certain singers who don’t venture outside of their material. So it’s just their material. This isn’t the case with Platten.

Her voice is engaging and energetic, inviting the audience into each of her songs. Yet that, too, would be the normal route for most musicians performing in this particular genre. What really sets Rachel Platten apart from the average singer/songwriter is her ability to interact with her audience. In between each song, she never stops having a conversation with her audience. She’s totally disarming, with her self-deprecating sense of humor making it easy and natural for everyone to warm up and ease into each successive song.

Still on the rise as a musician, Platten is absolutely in her element playing in front of an intimate audience with whom she can casually and easily interact. As her popularity grows, this quality may have to change or at least evolve. But for right now, her show at Jammin Java this Sunday should prove an entertaining affair and a great cap to her current tour.

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

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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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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