Pop music prodigy Rachel Platten delighted a packed Vogue Theatre Monday night during her very first visit to Vancouver.
The singer-songwriter is an “overnight sensation” five years in the making. Her debut album Be Here was released in 2011 and spawned a minor hit called “1,000 Ships”, which she dedicated last night to “the fans that were there before all the craziness”.
“Craziness” might be an understatement. In 2015, Platten released her inspirational anthem “Fight Song” and in no time her voice was everywhere. The song was heavily featured in a Ford ad campaign, was used in a PSA for the Girl Scouts of America, and Hillary Clinton even shook a tail feather to track at an event in New Hampshire.
“Fight Song” and its parent album Wildfire have propelled Platten to superstar status, and the singer was clearly in the mood to celebrate last night. She was all smiles as she opened the show with a one-two punch “Beating Me Up” and “Lone Ranger”.
“This is my first time in Vancouver, ever!” she said to huge cheers. “It’s so unbelievably beautiful here. I hope you guys know how lucky you are to live here.”
Platten went on to explain that she fell in love with Vancity during a trek across town before the show. “I was walking around listening to (new single “Better Place”) because I’m trying to come up with a music video for it. It’s about how someone that you love can lighten up the world for you, and make the world feel less heavy,” she said.
“I was walking around, and I don’t think this happens in every city…but I felt like every stranger I saw on the street was smiling back at me. You guys live in a special place.”
Hundreds of fans waited in line outside of the Vogue Theatre hours before showtime, many of them armed with homemade signs. The crowd was mostly female and almost all were under 25, which made the handful of middle-aged men who came solo stick out like sore thumbs.
The singer’s hour-long set was made up mostly of songs from Wildfire, plus a lovely cover of Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself” that gave Platten a chance to show off her beatboxing skills. She also performed a haunting version of Swedish House Mafia’s “Don’t You Worry Child”.
Platten wowed the crowd with her strong vocal chops, and her piano and guitar playing were top-notch. She also nicely filled the spaces between songs with heartwarming stories, including a hilarious anecdote about a recent spray tan gone wrong.
“This weird, new kinda-sorta ‘fame’ is totally strange,” Platten told us. “Do you guys ever get spray tans? Is that like a thing in Canada or are you guys too cool for that? In America we do it all the time. So you have to take your clothes off, and there was a nice woman spraying me and she did the upper part of my body.
“And she was leaning down towards the lower part of my body,” Platten continued, “and as she was doing around this area, she all of a sudden lit up and said ‘Oh my God, are you the Fight Song girl?’ I was like ‘not right now, ma’am'”.
Platten finished the show with current single “Stand By You”, a sing-along version of “Fight Song,” and some parting words of encouragement for her fans.
“I want you to know that this whole thing seemed totally impossible just over a year ago,” she said. “It really felt like I wasn’t gonna have a chance to play again in a room like this. It was hurting a lot because I felt like I had this thing I wanted to do in the world.
“And the thing I knew how to do was to keep believing in myself, and to write. And I wrote (“Fight Song”) about those feelings. About refusing to believe the voices in my head that were telling me I wasn’t good enough, and I don’t know if you guys have those feelings – it’s so fucked up, it hurts.”
Side note – to give you an idea as to how young the audience skewed, there was an audible “gasp” in the room when Platten dropped the f-bomb, followed by some nervous laughter.
“I wrote this song declaring that I still believed in myself no matter what,” she said. “If you guys have something that you’re going after, if you need a little reminder right now – your dreams are very close to happening, and you should not give up on yourselves. Keep fighting.”