By Cassie Esparza
Photos by Larissa Gonzales
Ever since Lea Michele debuted her first solo album, Louder, fans have been impatiently waiting for new music. In the final of her three preview shows, Lea Michele performed six songs from her second album, PLACES, and shared personal stories about each one.
She opened the show with Cannonball, her first single from Louder, and sang along with some audience members (including myself and my friends–we’re still trying to recover). After the first song, she introduced her new record, PLACES, and the first song she would sing from it, Run To You. In this new record, Michele reveals there are many songs about all different kinds of love. Run To You is a song about the kind of love in which “you would do anything for anyone.” When talking about the way she loves and “puts [her] whole heart into” she jokes, “my poor mother, if she hears one more time ‘I just love him so much.'” Her mom, who was in the audience that night, nodded and agreed Lea means it when she says she loves with everything she has. The song is a powerful ballad that shows off her range and truly sets the tone for the vocal power of this new record.
Lea Michele introduces the next song as the one that solidified the sound she wanted for this second album. Instead of focusing on making a pop-heavy record like Louder, Michele chose songs for this album that were unique to her voice and her life. Love Is Alive, the second song she previewed, is a slow, beautiful song that resembles those classics of Barbra Streisand and Celine Dion, two women Michele grew up listening to. During the first verse of the song, she calls out a photographer in the center of the front row and says “I can’t hear myself with the camera, I’m so sorry!” The audience laughed and she continued performing flawlessly.
The focus of the songs shifted from love to break-ups when Lea sung one of her new songs, Sentimental Memories, which she wrote herself. The song is clearly about her break up with an ex-boyfriend who shall-not-be-named, and she had no problem taking digs at him during the song. When she sung “all along you were a liar,” Lea unapologetically rolled her eyes and smirked at the audience, receiving laughs mostly from those who knew exactly who she was talking about. Following Sentimental Memories, Lea introduced another song from her new record that has a darker vibe to it. When describing it, I couldn’t help but make a comparison to Thousand Needles to which she responded, “Oh yeah! That was definitely a dark one!” and let out a small laugh. It was small moments like these that made the show a truly intimate one. Heavy Love, she said sounds very different on the record, and I can’t wait to hear the production of it beneath her powerful vocals. It was truly impressive to watch her sing those high notes so effortlessly and along with her signature emotional performance.
The next song Lea introduced, Anything’s Possible, required a hilarious story Lea looks forward to telling on talk shows. Before starting, however, someone in the audience shouted something to which Lea responded, “What? Was that an important message? Is there a butt showing? Or a crack, or something?” with a loud laugh. She started her story in New Orleans in 2015 and said at that point she was done with the album, and added “but you’re never really done until they say, ‘okay you’re fucking done!'” One of the girls Lea worked with on this second album sent her a more upbeat, positive song, which they had been looking for and told Lea to give it a listen. After instantly falling in love with the song and begging her team to get it from the songwriter for her album, she was told she couldn’t have it and said “well then why the fuck did you send it to me?!” She laughed and said she understood why she couldn’t have the song as it was personal for the songwriter. Lea continued with a fast forward to LA in 2016 when she was taking a Hot8Yoga class and this lady, she says, “decides that it would be a great idea to just get fucking wasted before hot yoga!” Lea hilariously proceeds to display one of her yoga poses while she mouths “fucking bitch” and receives a loud laugh from the audience. After the class, she stormed out into the changing room and immediately went off on the first person who walked in about the wasted lady and how she’s never coming back to the studio. Ironically, in this moment, the woman she was talking to recognized her and asked, “I think I sent you a song for your album?” “What song?” Lea replied, thinking she was being so mean. Immediately after she revealed the song was Anything’s Possible, Lea snapped, “Yeah! And you didn’t give it to me!” to which she received a quiet, “you can have it.” Lea recounts that the songwriter was definitely afraid of her, but all jokes aside, if it wasn’t because of that wasted lady, she might not be singing this song tonight. After I heard Anything’s Possible, it instantly became a song of hope and inspiration for me, and I don’t go a day without listening to it. To hear this live and have Lea sing along with us when she noticed we knew all the words was the one of the happiest moments of the night. Then came the moment of the night many were waiting for, when Lea nonchalantly asked the audience, “Do you guys want to talk about Glee?” which arguably received the loudest cheer of the night. “Oh Glee! It was really the best wasn’t it?” she recalled with a clear approval from the audience. All of a sudden, I see Lea walking in my direction, and before I even realized it she’s pointing right at me and says, “Cassie, right?” I’m pretty sure my heart completely stopped beating in that moment. I walked up to the stage when she asked me to come up and say hi and she asked, “What was your favorite Glee song?” but quickly interrupted herself to say she was obsessed with the PLACES shirt I was wearing (you can get it here if you want!). I handed her an identical shirt I made for her and she showed it off to the audience before posing the favorite Glee song question again. “It’s Taking Chances, because that’s the first time I ever heard you sing.” I responded to which she said, “I love that answer! High five!” I went back to my seat smiling the biggest I ever had as she went on to tell a story about how she was so excited to do that song and, “it was on for like two fucking seconds.” She moved on to the other side of the audience where another fan, Hannah, said her favorite song was New York State Of Mind. Lea returned to center stage after that and said this next song is one of the few Ryan Murphy let her pick to sing on the show. She sang Pink’s Glitter In The Air more beautifully than I could imagine and I felt as if I was watching Rachel Berry perform it in the Spotlight Diner for a small audience just like she did on Glee. To say that moment was magical would be a complete understatement.
Lea transitioned directly from Glitter In The Air to Battlefield, the most beautiful ballad from her first album Louder. I definitely cried my eyes out seeing her perform this heart-wrenching song live and seeing the emotions completely pour out of her onto that stage. As if Battlefield didn’t make us cry enough, the next song was one of the most meaningful to Lea and to many in the audience, Make You Feel My Love, which she performed in the Cory Monteith tribute episode in Glee. Throughout the song, you could see the intimate connection she has with the beautiful love song. As the song was coming to a close and she sang the last verse, she noticed my friends and I crying and pouted after singing “I could make you happy make your dreams come true.” She sang the next line looking at us and making our hearts break into a million pieces but also feel filled with love. The moment in this performance that meant the most was when she sang “go to the ends of the earth for you,” and pointed up, which we all knew was a gesture to the tall guy. I will never forget this emotional performance and even though I had no doubts about it before, I know her love for Cory Monteith is one that will last beyond a lifetime.
In order to lighten the mood a bit, Lea introduced her band and made a few jokes about two guys in her band who were single. She trailed off into another story about the last song she’d sing from her new record, Getaway Car. She recalls those times as a teenager when she used to get in the car and drive around with a boy she was in love with, more specifically during those times when Glee was getting big and she just needed a getaway from LA. She says this song is “about that kind of love where you would be fine just living in a cardboard box together and running away from everything, and the two of you just being okay anywhere.” The beautiful song is many peoples’ favorite from the six songs she’s previewed from her second album. It’s definitely one I look forward to playing over and over again once the album comes out.After finishing the last new song, Lea introduced what would be the last song of the night (although it really wasn’t). This song is one that I wished to see her perform live ever since Rachel Berry performed it on Glee. Without saying the name of the song, Lea simply began to perform My Man, arguably one of her best performances on Glee and of that night. There is no way to describe the way her powerful voice captured every audience member in that theatre, receiving cheers and praise throughout the entire number. As she sang the last few notes, I was in tears and quickly stood to give her a standing ovation. When I looked back, I noticed the entire theatre was on its feet and I could not feel more proud and happy for Lea, who is so deserving of such praise and recognition. After taking a bow and starting to walk off stage, however, Lea turned back and sat back down on her stool.
“There are many songs that are very special to me, but this one truly means the most” Lea revealed about the song she would be singing for her encore performance. “And I love it, I hope you do too,” she said before she started singing a stripped down version of You’re Mine from Louder, a song which she previously revealed was written about her relationship with Cory and was their favorite song on her album. I felt a whole different connection to this song as she sang it with so much heart and passion. There’s also nothing more heart-breaking than seeing her wipe her tears as she sings the beautiful love song for her late love. Before I knew it, the song was over and so was the show, and Lea took off backstage while the audience loudly cheered for her on their feet.
Out of many concerts I have attended to, there has not ever been one where I have felt such a close and personal connection to the artist on stage. Lea Michele truly let us into a part of her life with these old and new songs and completely opened herself up on that stage. There is no doubt that Lea Michele was born to perform on stage, and after this indescribable night, I cannot help but look forward to attending her shows in the future and hope everyone can experience seeing her live–for it truly is an out-of-body experience.