June 6, 2012: Less than four months after playing the same room in support of Matt Nathanson on his All Night Noise Tour, Rachel Platten returned to Headliners Music Hall in Louisville, Kentucky last Wednesday night. This time, it was a stop on her 53 Steps Tour, her first as headliner, and she brought her own support in the form of the lovely Madi Diaz and Stein Stoess.
Louisville-native Stein Stoess took the stage first and quickly ran through an entertaining and well-executed set. The opener of a three-artist show doesn’t generally have much time to talk to the audience, but he managed to share a bit of his personality and even told a quick story. The crowd was receptive to Mr. Stoess, going so far as taking him up a shot of bourbon to the stage during “Bourbon is for Friends” — Pretty much the same as a standing ovation in Kentucky.
Next it was Madi Diaz’s turn to fill the air at Headliners with her musical stylings. She started with the beautiful “Love You Now” from her recently-released album Plastic Moon. Lovely and melodic on her records, Madi’s voice is simply breathtaking live. It has a rich tone that has yet to be captured in all its glory in the studio. She fleshed out her set with a diverse sampling of her songs ranging from the upbeat, super catchy “Gimme a Kiss” to the heart-breaking and unforgettable “Heavy Heart”, all of which were delivered with a depth of emotion and sincerity that drew the audience in and held them in Madi’s spell.
Even though her set was less than an hour, she had time to tell a couple stories and to the engage the audience, at one point asking for our general opinion on spandex as a lead-in to her cover of Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up” which was, straight up, far better than the original. Overall, Madi had a great set, she was in the moment and connected to the audience and gave a great performance. She returns to Louisville in support of Harper Blynn next week.
Finally, it was time for the headliner herself to grace the stage along with her drummer Craig Meyer. It is generally just the two of them on stage and that’s just perfect because Rachel’s songs each tell a little story and Craig’s percussion adds the punctuation. Originally from Boston and currently living in NYC, Rachel plays her own infectious brand of vibrant, piano-based pop music. Even though her tour is almost over and she has been on the road for months, her excitement regarding her first headlining tour was almost tangible. Rachel played for this small group of people with the same enthusiasm that we saw from her when she was playing a sold-out Matt Nathanson show in February. This time, everyone was here to see her and she was well-aware and appreciative of that fact.
She played a number of her own songs including “Nothing Ever Happens”, “1,000 Ships” and “53 Steps” which many people in the crowd seemed to be familiar with. There were also a few selections from her album “Be Here” that appeared to be a little less well-known such as “Overwhelmed”, “Take These Things Away” and “Little Light”. She did include a slightly more PG than the record version of “You Don’t Have to Go” that was very well received. Her entire set was delivered with a remarkable amount of energy and joy. For a bit of extra comic relief, Rachel had Craig describe the merch they had available over some “sexual music”; amidst his descriptions, she performed a marketing friendly version of “Let’s Get It On.”
Because the majority of her own music is so vibrant, Mrs. Platten stepped outside her catalogue when she wanted to tone things down for a few minutes. She gave us her take on “Angel from Montgomery”, a beautiful song written and originally recorded by John Prine. We were treated to a memorable rendition of Mumford and Sons’ “The Cave” and finally she brought Madi back out on stage and the pair performed a hauntingly beautiful duet of Robyn’s “Dancing by Myself”.
After declaring her distaste for encores, Rachel ended the evening with “Gin and Juice” – always a crowd pleaser! Overall it was a great show and it seems a shame that Rachel’s tour has ended and she won’t be traveling with Madi Diaz any longer. It is always such fun to watch a performance by genuinely talented people who seem grateful for the privilege to be on stage for a living.
Stephanie Smith | Contributor