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Ad-libbing and Randomness, Combined with Raw Talent
Rachael Sage, Trevor Exter and Last-Minute Surprise Guest Raheli
By Liz Singer
(more articles from this author)
2009-01-24
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While communication issues were evident among the musicians onstage, the musicality of singer/songwriter/pianist Rachael Sage and her violin accompanist Jacob Lawson tied the seemingly unorganized show together. Bringing heartfelt emotions into solid piano-playing and the beautifully harmonious violin, Rachael Sage wowed the cozy crowd at Rockwood Music Hall last Friday [New York City - July 18, 2008].

Frequently apologizing in-between joking banter, Sage proved her ability to laugh at her own mistakes. Choosing to move on and fight past her nerves, she played on, song after song, her keys sounding bolder. Also improving throughout the set, her voice began to project more and more, displaying her astonishing vocal chops.

Sage's performance caught my ear from the start with the wondrous, tear-inspiring opening melody and sweet, sugary vocals on her first song, "Grave-Dancing." Looking up at the intimate audience, Sage sung straight to the wounded heart as Lawson's violin mended the soul: "You rained on me like ashes / and I may never feel the same / I refuse to play these games / I'm gonna be my own God-send." With the addition of a steady beat, as Sage banged the piano with her hand, the snappy violin twang created the perfect mix of pain and love. While some of the songs dragged on and lost their momentum, Sage's strong points were undeniably her intros, as every one got me feeling invigorated and energized.

Her appearance was clearly part of the spectacle, as she commented that her "groovy, psychedelic" outfit made her look like a "witch...[that] will melt," as she donned a pink and orange halter dress, fishnets and black boots, complete with a rose in her hair and racy teal eyeliner. With occasional finger-snapping and blues-y melodies, I felt like I was in the middle of a beatnik party, combined with a vaudeville show as her sparkly eye shadow shone from across the room.

The strongest song was "Walk Alone," with the catchiest melody, toe-tapping all the way through. The track was a testament to being single after a toxic relationship, which was a recurring, powerful theme throughout her music. With her wailing, blues-y vocals, her diverse range crossed through a handful of genres as vibrantly unique as her personality and style, complete with maroon hair.

Another highlight of the set was "Hope Wildflower," which Sage recently made a music video for. With an extra-riveting intro, the song created the sensation of running through a field of wildflowers, circling and spinning as the clouds dance above you in the sky.

With slightly Alanis-like bitterness combined with a toned-down theme of feminism, plus a self-proclaimed mantra of: "Don't take shit from anybody," the woman-power of Sage's music is incredibly evident. As an improved continuation of the 90s chick power of the Spice Girls, all in all, Sage's set was both enjoyable and inspirational to all who had the pleasure of listening. While her performance skills were still fairly amateur, the wit and cynicism found in her songs combined with strong piano skills and hauntingly sweet vocals led me to believe that Rachael Sage is definitely going places.

Following Ms. Sage was Trevor Exter, who had a voice almost identical to Tyler Hilton, combined with the surfer-style vocals of Jack Johnson (minus the flip-flops). With a constant variation between a soft and hard sound on his songs, Exter's cello-playing offered a unique twist on the typical singer-songwriter set.

But the most unexpected twist of all was the performance that followed: Since the highly anticipated Emily King was a no-call/no-show, a young woman walking down the street stopped to ask Rockwood Hall's bouncer who was performing. He then informed her of the missing Emily, and she told him that she was a singer from Philly, and was accompanied by her piano player.

The 20-minute set that followed can only be described as mind-blowing. With two original tracks off her EP ‘Ready for the Sun', "Love Unrequited" and "Broken," Raheli blew the vocal skills of any other major breakthrough voice like Kelly Clarkson or Jennifer Hudson way out of the water. Awe-inspiring for every minute, her set concluded with the perfect end: Prince's "Kiss," complete with kissing noises on cue and perfect faux-falsetto.

After all my years of concert-going, including seeing Prince himself, Queen, Lauryn Hill and Alicia Keys, I have never been so in awe of the vocals filling up the room - to the point where I thought the walls were going to burst of elation. Raheli, the random singer from Philadelphia, has a voice so phenomenal that I could only keep wondering, "Why isn't she famous?" as my jawed remained dropped.

Rachael Sage - www.rachaelsage.com
Trevor Exter - www.trevorexter.com
Raheli - www.myspace.com/voxraheli


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