“I’ve never felt so welcome anywhere,” said Rachel Platten, pausing between “Lonely Planet” and “Better Place” to share her genuine thanks to the audience at Sweet Briar College at an invite-only concert and Q&A Saturday night. Platten’s “Fight Song” helped many women at Sweet Briar stay strong and hopeful during the fight to keep the College open last year.
Hope, strength and love were recurring themes during the hourlong show. In the Q&A that followed a powerful performance, Platten told the audience that if she could have one super power, it would be “to only operate from a place of love.” She recalled reading somewhere that people switch between operating from a place of love and a place of fear. Emotions like anger and resentment, she said, come from that place of fear.
If there is anyone who could pull off that super power, I’d say she fits the part.
One could feel the suspense in the crowd when Platten entered the stage just after 7:30. Band already playing, multicolored lights circling the stage, fog machines going off, I had expected her to waltz in like a pop goddess, head held high, heels kicking back. What happened was not quite that. Platten climbed the steps on the side of the stage with confidence and intent, but her shoulders seemed tense, her head tilted down. She gathered herself, looked at the audience, then her band mates. And she started to sing.
By the time she got to the chorus of “Beating Me Up,” the tension had subsided. She was pounding on her chest and, at a pause in the lyrics, opened her arms wide, her eyes closed. Even in an audience of hundreds, I felt that I had never been so welcome anywhere. Platten was putting her whole heart into every word she sang, and it felt as if those words were her gift to us.
In my interview with her, I asked, “If you could only sing songs written by others, or write songs for others to sing, but not both, which would you choose?” Without having to think about it too much, Platten said she would choose to write.
“My writing means too much to me,” she said. She added that writing songs was like writing in a journal because it helps her sort through her thoughts.
The second song Platten performed, “Lone Ranger,” started off silent as a result of a failed mic, but she never stopped singing, and never became discouraged. Later, when she forgot some of the lyrics to the cover she was performing, “Love Yourself,” she laughed it off, trusting that her audience was rooting for her, instead of fearing their judgement.
Platten admitted in the interview that maintaining such an uplifting and positive outlook takes her a lot of hard work. She reads self-help books, meditates, and yells her wishes for the future “towards the ocean.” Most of all, she believes that the energy she puts forth into the world is the energy she will experience. She said she works hard to make that energy positive and hopeful.
When Platten finished the concert with the song we had all been waiting for, we were there, feeling her energy. She had shared the story of how “Fight Song” came to be — as a result of her own experience of fighting not to give up on her dream; told us about the time her younger sister met the man she would soon marry and how “her whole soul lit up”; and asked us to hug the person who made the world a better place for us. She had thanked, entertained, touched, taught and inspired us all in the span of an hour. So when it was time for that final song, everyone in the audience who had ever had a dream must have felt the power behind those words as they belted them out loud: “My power’s turned up, starting right now I’ll be strong, this is my fight song.”