Judging from her recent No. 1 debut on the Billboard 200 album chart, Sara Bareilles has quite a following. And while chart position says a lot about broad consumer appeal, she is much more than the typical studio musician who can sell albums.
Tuesday's sold-out show at the Orpheum Theater in downtown Los Angeles proved that the 30-year-old wasn't part of the Auto-Tune generation as she skillfully ripped through several tracks off her new album, "Kaleidoscope Heart."
Opening with "Vegas" -- from her 2007 breakthrough "Little Voice" -- Bareilles fronted her four-piece band on piano (which she played standing up for the first four songs) through a string of perfect rhythmic, driving pop anthems.
Video: Sara Bareilles Q&A at the Billboard Studios
The new track "Gonna Get Over You," which she dedicated to anyone "with a douchebag in their life," delivered the night's most playful performance as Bareilles relished the 1950s-era piano hook. "King of Anything," the first single from "Kaleidoscope," was equally terrific; Bareilles is clearly comfortable singing from her heart.
Perhaps the night's only weak spot came during an overstylized extended introduction to "Hold My Heart" that was reminiscent of a bad nature CD. Swapping piano for acoustic guitar, Bareilles noted her struggles with writer's block in producing "Kaleidoscope" and revealed how being an "emotional basket case" helped snap her out of it -- which led nicely into a revealing version of "Basket Case."
"Fairytales" cleared the band from the stage, and Bareilles delivered the feminist anthem with a natural confidence and elegance. Although comparisons could be made at times during her performance to Sinead O'Connor, Lily Allen and Michelle Branch, Bareilles' vocal range belies easy categorization.
Shifting genres from perfect pop to blues and back, the night's bravest and most powerful performance came at the end, when Bareilles returned to her roots and brilliantly sang fan favorite "Gravity" backed only by an a cappella group.