JAM Magazine Concert Reviews

July 17, 2013
The Sons of Hermann Hall
Dallas, TX USA
Review by Sherry McCarter
Photos by 

Rachael Yamagata

Intense Lyrics of Love, Loss, and Loneliness

I first discovered Rachael Yamagata and Madi Diaz while watching the predictable, yet entertaining chick flick, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. I heard her song, Be Your Love, in the background. I scanned through the credits to see who this sultry, melancholic voice belonged to because I was hungry for more of her music. This is when I first became a fan.

Over time I have recognized her songs in numerous movies such as Prime, Trust the Man, and Monster-in-Law and I have listened to every album she has released since her solo debut in 2004 with Happenstance. Rachael is not necessarily a well known singer, but those lucky enough to have stumbled upon her usually become dedicated followers. She is known for her intense lyrics of love, loss, and loneliness which have attracted an audience of (mostly) women and some men. Her willingness to be transparent and honest and expose the raw emotion within her through her music, attracts fans who relate to her vulnerability.

The intimate performance at the Sons of Hermann Hall in Dallas had a simplistic setup that made the atmosphere feel like her fans were sitting around a camp fire listening to a friend play the guitar and sing songs with lyrics that felt more like poetry with music added later. She came onto the stage wearing a whimsical dress and long dark hair, which most likely came from her family's Japanese heritage, with a drink in hand and opened with Heavyweight. In between songs, Rachael conversed with the audience, asked questions and revealed personal struggles, lessons learned, and witty observations from her life experiences and relationships.

Although Sons of Hermann Hall had a warm, cozy atmosphere, the acoustics were not ideal. Despite this dilemma and suffering from a cold with a cough, she performed quite well. This is something only an artist and true professional who truly loves what they do can accomplish.

The songs she chose were an eclectic mix of old (Worn Me Down & Reason Why), recent (Elephant, Oh Lover & Sidedish Friend), and not yet released (Woman). Surprisingly, she included one song made up on the spot about 'dead puppies' (a topic an audience member shouted out), which was quite impressive. The impromptu 'dead puppies' lyrics exposed just how intelligent and creative Rachael Yamagata and Madi Diaz really is. It is no surprise that she once attended both Northwestern and Vassar.

Madi Diaz, who performed with Rachael, seemed to play a new instrument with each song, but I lost count after he picked up the fifth one. The audience responded with the greatest enthusiasm to those older songs that were guaranteed to be listened to while nursing a broken heart. Even if all you have are wounds that have long since healed and left a scar, Rachael's music tempts you into revisiting those experiences from long ago, ones of pain and introspection. I am looking forward to her next album release and will definitely see her again next time she drops by Dallas.