Matching the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens in terms of beauty is no easy feat. Even before you enter the gardens themselves, you’re treated to the sight of the stately, white greenhouses and expansive front lawn, all with the great dome of the Our Lady of Victory Basilica towering in the distance. However, Sara Bareilles did just that at Wednesday’s Starry Night in the Garden event, her dynamic, soaring voice holding its own and then some against the backdrop of one of Buffalo’s most beloved landmarks.
The crowd at the Star 102.5-organized event, the proceeds of which benefit the Botanical Gardens, sprawled over the lawn on blankets and in camp chairs and was given a classy air from the wine glasses that came with every ticket. The group seemed to be composed of a mix of older folks there to support the gardens and younger adults and teens drawn there by the headlining act. No matter what their reason for coming, they all got a show worth the ticket price.
Bareilles is a radio queen, coming onto the scene with her triple-platinum hit “Love Song” in 2007 and maintaining a steady presence ever since. However, the Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter’s voice has an intensity and depth that just doesn’t fully manifest itself over the airwaves. Husky and powerful, it rang out over the front lawn of the Gardens during her hourlong performance, providing an immensely satisfying evening.
Appearing onstage just as the sun sank from view behind the greenhouses, Bareilles included all her fan favorites in her set, including the aforementioned breakthrough hit as well as the equally upbeat “Many the Miles,” “Gonna Get Over You” and “King of Anything.” With “Brave,” an inspiring and energetic number driven by a thumping baseline, she gave the appreciative audience a taste of her newest album, “The Blessed Unrest,” to be released in July.
Bareilles slowed things down with the fragile-sounding “Gravity,” “Basket Case” and her soulful, sultry cover of the Otis Redding hit “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay.”
Goofy and unpretentious, she laughed and joked around with the crowd throughout her set, keeping the mood light no matter what her songs’ subject matter. Bareilles’ pop-oriented songs are fun and catchy, but it’s in the bluesy ones that her powerhouse of a voice really shines. An accomplished pianist, she accompanied herself on almost every song, quitting the piano bench only a few times in favor of an acoustic guitar. She was unquestionably a headliner worthy of the gorgeous surroundings.
Opening the show was Los Angeles-based band Youngblood Hawke. As attendees milled about, enjoying the wares from participating vendors like Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, McKenzie’s Hard Cider and various wineries, the six-man band played an acoustic set that included some of the more mellow songs from its repertoire, though the lead singer made mention several times that the band’s normal sound is much more rock-and-roll. Their final song was the catchy, popular hit, “We Come Running,” which was met with much enthusiasm from the audience. Also opening was New Zealand native Ginny Blackmore, a fun stage presence who played several covers as well as her hit “Bones.”
What: Starry Night in the Garden featuring Sara Bareilles with Youngblood Hawke and Ginny Blackmore
When: Wednesday evening
Where: Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, 2655 S. Park Ave.