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Published:August 15th, 2014 17:33 EST
The Little Black Dress Tour and Honesty

The Little Black Dress Tour and Honesty

By Andy Wright

It pays to be hopeful in dangerous times but we may just be in the end of history of sexism.  Results aren`t plentiful on our streets or behind public and private doors, where the true violence still occurs as though shrouded by the rock that will never be turned over.  Emotional assaults (physical and verbal harassment, most prominently) that remain unhindered and the struggle to push women toward the brink of absolute humiliation are the products of a desire toward the superior.  

The foundational belief that socialized man was superior to socialized woman rested in the weight of one`s voice, and the appeal to authority had its day in the light; society depended solely on communicative means and voice gave birth to norm, convention, belief, and law.  Once the private door became the public door is when women were erased as subjects and resulted in the objectification of women on a social level.  We have seen this change little by little as the barrier of silence is ruptured by figureheads and the corresponding movements that follow " hardly enough to cause celebration because of the resultant set of behavior that still exists.  However, I maintain that the end of this history has been signified by the onslaught of figureheads that we celebrate today; we have not only witnessed an inflation of strong female artists (in every sense of the word) but most importantly the birth of a new honesty.  

The short explanation of what that means is: no longer shrouding what we know based on judgment.  A longer explanation of what that means is: no longer simply acknowledging the darker side of being a human only on a subdued conscious level and pretending it doesn`t exist on a social level, and integrating that in the dialectic of today.  What I`m really trying to sound smart and say is: we`ve only noticed half the truth out of fear and women are evading that cowardice to let honesty actualize.  For a better sense of what that could mean, I recommend Garbage`s What Girls Are Made Of.

Courage is not something easily found especially relative to the abundance of its diametric opposite.  Without delving too deep into what surely would be a different article/essay, I feel it`s fair to say that the general acceptance that women aren`t funny, or are at least inferior to men when it comes to comedy, is a desiccated and obsolete judgment.  Female comedians and writers have adjusted the world of comedy to give it the chance to (finally) evolve naturally.  All brave writing begins with or, better, is founded in the tragicomic.  The music world, on the other hand, has been a more opportunistic realm for female artists to prove themselves; however, honesty hasn`t always been so marketable.  For this catharsis we have to seek out our singer/songwriters.  Artists like Florence + The Machine, Fiona Apple, and Amanda Palmer have given honest music its unsexy, blunted openness and post-traumatic stress inducing reverence.  The mid-90`s saw this change universally across all genres of music and this trend will continue; because, as listeners who aren`t offended by this kind of strength, we`ve found we prefer the courageous to cowardice.

Sara Bareilles is on tour at the time of this writing, The Little Black Dress tour in fact.  She is about to kick off the international leg in a month.  I went to the show in Cleveland, OH at Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica which is an outdoor venue.  I bought a program before we found our seats.  The program included a letter to her fans, friends, and family in which she thanks them all; the third paragraph goes on to explain that this tour is a celebration for us and a symbol for her, she specifies as letting something go. Unbeknownst to me (but not to the Internet) at the time of reading the program she had split from her original band (which also included a boyfriend) before moving to New York City and completing The Blessed Unrest, her fourth studio album.  In promotion for her fourth album, Bareilles went on tour, performing solo which resulted in the live recording Brave Enough: Live at the Variety Playhouse.

Emily King and Hannah Georgas, two more performers who don`t take honesty in their writing lightly, opened for Bareilles; and although I missed the first song of Georgas` waiting on warm Jameson in a plastic cup (I`m not complaining, I knew exactly what I was buying into), both King and Georgas proved themselves worthy not only to be on this tour but also of their virtue.  As the remaining concert goers crowded into the uncomfortable bleachers where we sat, keeping backs and knees within less than an inch of each other, the lights went black and for 19 songs, we were relentlessly captivated.

After the whole show as over, I wasn`t content.  I went over the concert in my mind and kept going over Bareilles` set list.  Let there be no confusion over the show " Bareilles` performance was incredible to say the least " but something was amiss.  It felt like abruptly ending a conversation with a friend before getting to everything you wanted to.  She regards all her fans like they`re her friends; she doesn`t just appreciate people coming to her shows and listening to her music, she wants to engage them.  She has a tendency to share a lot with her fans in between songs; she doesn`t overshare information, but confides in her fans.  She will tell you why she wrote the song, that the song is sad, why she`s there, why she went on tour, and she will spare you many of the details but she will let you know that you`re now a part of whatever change is then occurring in her life.  As any honest performer would, she already choose to bleed through her art on stage and yet she trusts the lot of us to go deeper than that.

Brave Enough was not only an opportunity but the show of something true.  Bareilles took a risk touring solo, not because of how the fans would react but how she would see her performance.  Every artist deserves that moment to blame every single, little nuance of a performance on themselves and, likewise, absorb all the success on strictly their behalf.  Whenever the stage is shared there exists a communal blame; on the other hand, when you`re the only one up there no one can truly understand that experience as you did " this was the succeeding evolution of the break after The Blessed Unrest.

The Blessed Unrest is a collection of terrible honesty that not once apologizes for its brutality.  With only one song to break the cycle of a track listing that could be considered the most complex stages of grief to date, Bareilles tells us that everything`s not okay.  Whether she`s belting out the inner monologue behind understanding heartbreak intellectually in the anthem Little Black Dress or defending the scariest of arguments which causes most of us dissonance on any given day in I Wanna Be Like Me, it`s clear that she has no interest in lying to us about the trek she took to get to this point but also has no interest in dwelling on it. 

The Little Black Dress Tour is no less another cathartic stage of the evolution from her break (from her previous band, previous life in LA, and whomever else was in her life).  Before we`re even given a chance to judge the show, she comes right out and publishes her insecurities in the program, admitting that all the change that gave us fans plenty to be happy with is still not done taking its toll on her life and she needs to do this " and she would rather do that with the fans than without.  She broke from her old band, moved, recorded a new album, toured solo despite any great fears, and now is touring with her new band which she appears to feel at home with; although we benefit from this journey, she asked us to simply be cool with her evolution as an artist and a person.  The last bit of evidence of her evolution during the show was the choice to play some of her older songs differently, among them was Love Song.  What other changes could be made to show a rejection of what once was?  It would be irresponsible and petty to suggest that she`s running, especially given the evidence that she`s affirming what`s ahead.

Honesty, as our history continues, will become more and more courageous because we tend to fear it deeper and deeper; lying, thus, becomes easier and more comforting.  This isn`t as bleak as it sounds because all the arguments point to the same goal " getting the truth.  Honesty scares us but we thrive on it and live our lives based on what the courageous have assured us of.