Saturday, March 26, 2016

LIVE FROM NEW YORK: Rachel Platten + Christina Grimmie at Irving Plaza

The Wildfire Tour: (l to r) Eric Hutchinson, Rachel Platten, Christina Grimmie
A night of positive-vibes and lyrical feels, indeed. That is how to best sum up Rachel Platten's WILDFIRE Tour.

My excitement over Rachel Platten kind of took me by surprise, to be honest. I loved the empowerment directive behind "Fight Song" just as much as everyone else -- a true little "single that could" with a positive message that didn't feel forced. It was more because Platten herself is no spring chicken or overnight success. She's been working the live music beat even here in New York for years, playing shows relentlessly, first releasing music independently back in 2003(!) before getting her big break and signing on with Columbia Records. Her battlecry to be heard ("This is My Fight Song!") and tireless pursuit of her dreams is the epitome of inspiring, no matter who you are.

It was for this reason that decided to give her major label debut Wildfire (released at the top of the year) a listen and was overwhelmingly, pleasantly surprised. Platten's sunny pop gems fit right in to that post-Natasha Bedingfield, Kelly Clarkson pocket, and in terms of tone, her voice and lyrics spoke volumes to me at this point in my life. Upon hearing the song, "Angels In Chelsea", written about seeing optimism, community, empathy, and love in perceived total strangers here in New York, it all became solidified. I was a true blue fan of this woman.

So much so that I was willing to return to Irving Plaza's General Admission scrum to see her take the stage. A bonus offering was one of her two opening acts on the tour was Christina Grimmie, a vocally mesmerizing The Voice alum who scored a four-chair-turnaround with Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Usher, and Shakira all vying for her talents (she was Team Adam but has a voice Christina Aguilera would/should be excited about had she been on the show that season). She began the night with a much-too-short set. (Absent from the lineup: any of her dancey uptempos like "Shrug" or "Must Be Love". Womp. Womp.)

Coincidentally, the show took place the night before her 22nd birthday (although she made no mention of it). She performed mostly material from her recently released EP Side A (a Side B will be coming along the pike soon), as well as fan favorite track "Liar Liar" from her indie debut release, Find Me. She also performed the cover she's most well known for -- Miley's "Wrecking Ball", her Voice audition song.

The other opener was also a pleasant surprise. Eric Hutchinson, a rootsy country-adjacent folk-pop singer (think Jason Mraz-esque), is utterly charming and funny and got the whole crowd dancing very quickly. Highlights from his set include his toe-tapping catchy song "A Little More" from his 2013 release Pure Fiction, which he mashed up with Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off", as well as his latest single "Anyone Who Knows Me". He (jokingly?) stated he wrote the latter in the hope Adele might use it for her record.

Once Rachel hit the stage, she really was in her element. The show that night was filmed for live streaming broadcast via Yahoo! and Platten reiterated that playing not one but two back-to-back sold out shows at Irving Plaza was a literal dream come true for her, as she would often walk by the venue when she lived in New York and pined to see her name on its marquee one day.

Aside from my favorite jam "Angels In Chelsea", the vast majority of her set was from Wildfire, although she threw in two unexpected covers: Bieber's "Love Yourself" and Swedish House Mafia's "Don't You Worry Child" (complete with pony-tail swinging). Platten was all energy, bounding all over the stage, a perpetual grin on her face, and her sunny energy was felt full force. Towards the end, for "Hey Hey Hallelujah", she brought out guest Andy Grammar who guests on the song and promptly picked her up and twirled her around. "Lone Ranger", another standout cut to me, was a lot of fun live as it is recorded, as was mid-tempo "Superman" and the ballad "Better Place".

"Fight Song" was inevitably her encore song and was pre-empted by her reiterating how important it is to not give up on your dreams no matter how long it may take to get you there. Given the audience that night was a motley crew of pre-teen/teenage girls, gals in their 20's, gay boys, and adult couples on date night, it speaks volumes to universal her appeal is.

If Rachel is playing near you, I highly recommend seeing her live -- but if not, you should definitely at least give Wildfire a spin and see how it changes your mood. You won't be disappointed.

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