Rachael Yamagata strolls through Ithaca

Review: The singer/songwriter returns to the stage after a three-year absence.

As the year’s first snow fell in Ithaca Thursday night, Rachael Yamagata stood on the sidewalk outside Delilah’s Lounge smoking a cigarette.

“Is it always this cold up here?” she asked. “It’s cold inside, it’s cold outside. It’s cold everywhere.”

She took one last drag and headed for the door. In her oversized coat and black boots, she climbed the stairs to Delilah’s second-story showroom and made her way through the crowd to the small stage.

Photo: Peter Caty
Rachael Yamagata performs in Ithaca, the third stop on her 43-city nationwide tour.

“We’re freezing our asses off,” she mused as she tuned her Martin acoustic. “Someone told me you guys walk around barefoot here. I don’t know how you do it.”

A crowd of about 70 people (all wearing shoes) had braved the early winter weather to pack into the cozy lounge. Some sat at cocktail tables and on benches surrounding the stage. Most stood in whatever free space was available. With a brick wall behind her and an amalgamation of skinny jeans and gray ponytails to her front, Yamagata began to play.

Ithaca marked the third stop on Yamagata’s 43-city nationwide tour. After a three-year touring hiatus, the young woman, who currently lives in Woodstock, NY, hit the road to promote her new album, “Chesapeake.” She left her former label, Warner Bros. Records, in March and released “Chesapeake” under her own newly created Frankenfish Records.

“I feel liberated,” she said. “I know it sounds stereotypical, but we just had fun making this album.”

The tour, like the album, reflects a distinct do-it-yourself feel. Yamagata, along with her four-piece band, is traveling the country in a Mercedes Sprinter. They cram gear and bodies into the van each night and lug speakers and amps on and off stage themselves.

"We're paying our dues again," she said. "I'm just so glad to be able to do another tour, though."

She funded the tour (and the album) with a PledgeMusic campaign, seeking donations from fans. The project garnered tremendous success, and Yamagata now spends her nights signing posters and sending thank you notes to supporters.

“I didn’t sleep at all last night,” she said. “But I feel good about it. It’s an even exchange with my fans. No money goes to a record label--it all funds the album and the tour.”

In return, fans in Ithaca received an intimate evening with Yamagata Thursday night. She related personal experiences about long distance relationships and her fear of being uncovered as a fraud. It's a feeling, she said, that we can all relate to.

She serenaded her audience with dark, melancholic lyrics and cooing vocals, alternating acoustic guitar with piano and electric guitar. She sipped on a glass of red wine between songs and cracked sassy jokes with the audience.

“That was almost a happy song,” she said mockingly after an unusually upbeat tune. “Totally new territory for me.”

Despite her popularity among fans, Yamagata seems to feel unworthy of their praise while onstage. She mocked her own aptitude on the electric guitar and apologized for her lack of sleep. Still, her smooth lyrics captivated listeners in the crowded room and her stream-of-consciousness dialogue kept them waiting to see what she would say next.

“I’m not really a spotlight person,” she said prior to the show. “If I wasn’t making music I think I would be a designer of some sort. Or a spy. I would want to be a spy.”

As much as she may disagree, however, Yamagata belongs in the limelight. Her self-deprecating humor lends itself to her intimate performances and her down-to-earth mannerisms let the audience know that they're all in this thing together.

Great singer i have ever listen

I am fan of this singer and i like her the way she plays guitar. Thanks for amazing and wonderful sharing with us.

Post new comment

* Field must be completed for your comment to appear on The NewsHouse
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.