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Live Review: Rachel Yamagata Reflects on 'Happenstance' at Music Hall of Williamsburg to End U.S. Tour

by Carolyn Menyes   Nov 19, 2014 15:41 PM EST

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"I was so angsty back then," Rachel Yamagata commented on Tuesday night (Nov. 18) at The Music Hall of Williamsburg. On the final night of her latest tour, the jovial yet introspective singer-songwriter was looking back in time, performing her 2004 debut album Happenstance in full to celebrate its 10th anniversary. To a packed audience full of diehard fans, Yamagata relieved her Happenstance, telling personal anecdotes about the album and reflecting about her early 20s all the while.

Yamagata easily ripped through opening tracks "Be Be Your Love" and "Letter Read" before bouncing from her piano to a station with an electric guitar. Between songs from Happenstance, which she played in full and in order, Yamagata gave insight into her lyrical process, to the delight (and perhaps disappointment) of the room.

"It's bulls**t, because you're going to die. You're not going to see them again, but I like that it's positive in the thought," she declared with sass before playing the tenderhearted "I'll Find A Way." She also spilled on "1963," which she rarely plays live due its technical difficulties (the co-writer Mark Benton has also worked with the likes of Stevie Wonder and Eminem). "I like this song, even though it's historically inaccurate," Yamagata said. "A lot of s**t went down in 1963." Though she noted the year sounded better than a mildly more blissful time, like 1973 or 1982.

Though her lack of playing "1963" live showed when Yamagata had to restart the track because she forgot the words, though she played it off candidly turning the moment into an endearing one instead of an embarrassment - it was the mark of an old pro.

Bouncing between the piano bench and a station with an electric guitar, Yamagata extended her 53 minute album into a 90 minute performance, giving insight to her process and, more importantly, sounding as flawless as ever. She told stories about nearly every track, giving insight into the possible threesome (and fallout) that led to the "trilogy" or "Even So," "I Want You" and "Reason Why." Yamagata also detailed the recording process in the Bahamas and joked about not coming out for 30 minutes and making the venue wholly silent before playing the bonus track "Ode To...," which did not make the setlist.

After wrapping up her final show of the year and before sending off the audience into the chilly November night, Yamagata performed one final song: "Sunday Afternoon" off 2008's Elephants... Teeth Sinking Into Heart, pulling it into her debut through the use of the word "happenstance."

Yamagata summed up the night best herself: "These were my twenties, you guys. What I love about music is there's no judgment. I have permission to be on both sides of the situation and have nothing other than the freedom to express it," she said. And express she did, with the album still resonating through the Brooklyn halls after all these years.

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