Rachael Yamagata shines with dark charm and wit

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Mar 17, 2014 - 20:20
  • Updated : Mar 18, 2014 - 09:21
On a dimly-lit stage in the Baekyang Concert Hall at Yonsei University in Seoul, American singer-songwriter Rachael Yamagata charmed hundreds of fans with her captivating vocals and witty jokes on Friday night.

As the concert was focused on a “live acoustic” sound, the stage featured only a piano and a simple instrumental set occupied by Yamagata’s accompanying musician and one-man-band Michael Chaves.

Opening with a performance by New York-based, pop-jazz artist Emi Meyer, Yamagata’s concert was intimate and expressive. Yamagata hopped back and forth between the piano and guitar, leading the audience through a range of passionate tunes including “Under My Skin,” “Duet” and “Sunday Afternoon.”
Rachael Yamagata performs in Seoul on March 14. (Southern Star Entertainment)
Devoid of loud instrumentals and stripped down to only the basic acoustics, Yamagata’s smoky, confessional vocals carried and amplified each song’s poignant lyrics, line by line.

Although Yamagata’s songs are generally dark and somber, her stage presence was far from gloomy. Frequently jesting with the audience, especially cracking self-deprecating jokes as she blew kisses to the crowd to thank them for loving her “depressing” songs, Yamagata connected with her listeners with wit and ease.

In between songs, she told personal anecdotes, explaining what inspired her poetic song-writing and what kind of things happened in her life at the time, which helped create a more intimate listening experience.

“Okay, so I know that you want to hear the song about the time that I cheated on my boyfriend,” giggled Yamagata. “I know you won’t judge. Heck, at least I got a song out of it!” she said, launching into a gut-wrenching rendition of “Even So” amid a focused silence in the crowd.

At other times, the singer-songwriter fell into random, humorous conversations with her partner Chaves, to the delight of the audience. During the middle of the program, the two thought the mood was too “depressing,” so they threw in a bit of audience participation, asking people to come up with something “happy.”

“It’s Friday!” shouted someone in the audience. So it was. The duo soon broke into a wonderful improv tune dubbed “It’s Friday,” as everyone cheered and clapped along.

Other highlights of the performance included an acoustic guitar version of one of Yamagata’s most well-known pieces, “Be Be Your Love,” as well as a stirring, heart-wrenching delivery of “You Won’t Let Me,” which left the audience breathless. The singer-songwriter closed the night with an encore performance of “Reason Why,” another passionate tune played to its emotional core.

The Friday concert lasted a full two hours, and it was evident that the audience enjoyed and remained focused for every part of it. After the concert, a long line formed for autographs, extending up the stairs all the way to the second floor, proving the singer-songwriter’s captivating charm.

By Sohn Ji-young (jiyoung.sohn@heraldcorp.com)