Concert Review: Rachael Yamagata @ Adelaide Hall – Toronto

Rachael Yamagata
It’s hard to believe that it’s been 10 years since the release of Rachael Yamagata’s first album Happenstance. It turns out her current tour is in celebration of that very fact. I’ve grown up with Rachael, and over the years, her earliest songs have come to take on a different shape and meaning. So it’s exciting to hear that she’s recording an acoustic version of Happenstance, which will undoubtedly put all my attempts at covers that I’ve made as an amateur guitarist to shame. She’s also currently working on a new album currently being funded by pledgers on PledgeMusic.

Philadelphia’s Hemming kicked off the night at Adelaide Hall in Toronto with four songs. She cleverly introduced one (unfortunately, I didn’t catch the title) as a song about taking a daily vitamin: “Swallow me whole without even thinking…” The Parisian duo, The Dove & the Wolf played next. Their pretty harmonies were sung in impeccable English and had I not known they had just flown in from France, I would have assumed they were North American.

At 9pm, Rachael took the stage. She opened with several new songs, which represented a departure from her previous ones, drawing far more heavily from classic rock and jazz. A couple songs in and true to the theme of the tour, she played “Be Be Your Love.” Not long afterwards, she invited both Hemming and The Dove & the Wolf to join her for another new song, called (for the time being) “Tightrope Walker/Texas Ranger.” Rachael revealed that all her new songs were named “Tightrope Walker” pending more inspired titles.

I’ve listened to a lot of other female singer-songwriters, but Rachael is hands-down my favourite. Her music has the rare quality of conveying genuine and palpable emotions. It’s clear that Rachael is a romantic. But her songs are tinged with a war-weariness that can only come from the realities of repeat heartache. Perhaps the most melancholic of her songs come from her recent Heavyweight EP. On “Has It Happened Yet?” she sings about the sad inevitability of exes moving on and the slow erosion of memories once shared. Perhaps even sadder still is “It’ll Do” on which she poignantly describes how it feels to settle for a passionless relationship.

I last saw Rachael not too long ago at the Bowery Ballroom in New York in 2013 (I can still remember the dreamcatcher hanging in the backdrop). This time round did not disappoint. The acoustics at Adelaide Hall  were top-notch and the venue was in many ways far more intimate than the Bowery Ballroom. Her performance itself demonstrated her breadth and depth as a musician. She moves seamlessly from more powerful songs to simpler ones like the acoustic guitar-driven “Duet” sans Ray LaMontagne.

She ended the last song with a creative exit. She let her band rock out on stage without her. She left first, and her band played on with each member slowly leaving the stage one by one, first with her guitarist, then her drummer, then finally her bassist. She was of course beckoned back for an encore and left us with “The Reason Why” – still awesome 10 years later. Here’s to another 10 years, Rachael.

Click here for our interview with Rachael Yamagata.

Review by Katrina Hui |

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