Category Archives: Shawn Colvin

Shawn Colvin at the World Cafe Live in Philly, 11/1/17

In some respects, life is little more than a succession of ephemeral moments that fit like bricks into the design that is the present; and the present is little more than the latest iteration in that never-ending stack of interlocked instances.

Life, in other words, is akin to a never-ending construction project – a thought that occurred to me on Wednesday, November 1st, when Diane and I saw singer-songwriter Shawn Colvin at the World Cafe Live in West Philly for the umpteenth time. We first saw her in the early ‘90s – at the TLA in 1992, I believe, on the Fat City tour. And though we haven’t seen her every time she’s come to town since, as time and circumstance (and money) always play a part, we’ve seen her more times than I can count.

I first heard her crystalline voice during my Folk Show days in the mid-1980s, when she was a semi-regular fixture on the Fast Folk Musical Magazine series. Some early morns I was lazier than others, and I’d drop one of those compilation LPs onto the turntable and play two or three or more songs in a row. (She and Lucy Kaplansky often sang together, it seemed, though that may be my memory playing tricks on me.)

But, honestly, the folksinger I normally looked for on those comps wasn’t Shawn, but Suzanne – Vega, that is. It wasn’t until Shawn’s debut LP, Steady On in late 1989, that I signed on as a fan. The title tune, “Diamond in the Rough,” “Shotgun Down the Avalanche,” “Ricochet in Time” – well, what can be said? They’ve stayed with me.

This latest concert was in support of the “20th Anniversary Edition” of her platinum-selling 1996 album A Few Small Repairs album, which is home to the Grammy-winning “Sunny Came Home.” (That October 1st marked its 21st anniversary wasn’t mentioned.) After opening with Tom Petty’s “Wildflowers,” she played the album from start to finish, and shared stories behind several of the songs – “Get Out of This House,” for example, was born from her loathing of the writing room in her then-new house.

That’s not my video, I should mention. We were in the front row, far right – a bad angle, as the picture up top and one below shows.

Another insight: “Wichita Skyline,” another of the album’s highlights, was about her childhood in South Dakota, but she changed the locale due to John Levanthal’s melody, which pays homage to “Wichita Lineman.”

My favorite moments of the night came during the encores, which included a sterling cover of the Beatles’ “I’ll Be Back.” (And just as when she, Emmylou Harris and Patty Griffin performed it back in ’09…no one appears to have captured it.) “Steady On,” too, was grand:

Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams, who opened with their own set before backing Shawn, were very good, too. During their set, Larry explained that he and Shawn go way, way back. He got his start playing in a band with Buddy Miller, and she joined in 1980. So they’ve played together, on and off, for decades. During her set, Shawn recalled a pre-fame gig in Albany when they played four 45-minute sets a night.

I actually would have preferred, I think, a 25th anniversary celebration of Fat City, or at least the addition of the one-size-fits-all-song that is “Polaroids” (she used to turn it int a medley) to the set. But, personal preferences aside, it was a great show.

That said, here she is in 1994 on the BBC performing “Polaroids”…

Here’s the setlist, though I believe I may be missing one of the encores…

  1. Wildflowers
  2. Sunny Came Home
  3. Get Out of This House
  4. The Facts About Jimmy
  5. You and the Mona Lisa
  6. Trouble
  7. I Want It Back
  8. If I Were Brave
  9. Wichita Skyline
  10. 84,000 Different Delusions
  11. Suicide Alley
  12. New Thing Now
  13. Nothin’ on Me

Encores,

  1. I’ll Be Back
  2. Steady On
  3. Tenderness on the Block
  4. Diamond in the Rough
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Of Concerts Past: 3 Girls & No Buddy, 2/6/2009

tickets_large_x2It was a meeting of old friends, of a sort, except that we didn’t meet for dinner or drinks at a restaurant or bar but, instead, an evening of stories and songs at the Keswick Theater in Glenside, Pa., on Friday, Feb. 6th, 2009. Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin and Shawn Colvin shared the stage while Diane and I sat in fifth-row seats, tapped our feet and said “wow” to one another after many of the songs. Buddy Miller, who was also slated to be there, bowed out in order to rehearse for a Grammy appearance backing Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. In a nod to him, however, the three women placed a “buddy bear” in the chair where he would’ve sat.

On the outside looking in, as Buddy’s a guitarist’s guitarist, one might have expected that the all-acoustic gig lacked fret work. Patty and Shawn, however, are more than qualified – each has probably played thousands of solo gigs – and Emmy, while far from a guitar goddess, more than holds her own.

Highlights abounded, and included Emmy’s opening “Red Dirt Girl” and heartfelt “Strong Hand (Just One Miracle),” which she wrote for June Carter Cash the night of June’s passing,

Also: Patty’s fierce “Stay on the Ride” (from her 2007 Children Running Through album); and harmony-rich, to-die-for renditions of the Beatles’ “I’ll Be Back” and Patty’s own “Mary.”

Shawn, as is her wont, served up a few oddballs: covers of Donovan’s “Catch the Wind” and Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy.”

For me, though, the piece de resistance was Patty’s fiery “Truth No. 2,” which she wrote but most folks know as a Dixie Chicks song. (They sang it on their 2003 Home CD.) “You don’t like the sound of the truth coming from my mouth….”

As I recall, about the only negative was the song selection. Aside from “Stay on the Ride,” Patty veered away from Children Running Through, one of my top albums of 2007. “Trapeze,” a hypnotic ballad that features Emmy on harmony, seemed a natural fit; but it wasn’t to be. Likewise, “Up to the Mountain (MLK Song)” – my favorite song of hers – didn’t make the setlist.

And, not to be outdone, Shawn also sidestepped my favorite song of hers, “Shotgun Down the Avalanche,” even after promising to play it when a fan (not me!) shouted out a request for it.

Even missing those songs, however, it was a good show. In fact, it’s safe to say that it was the best round-robin concert I’ve witnessed. That’s not really saying much in and of itself, though, as round-robin shows – for me, at least – are often as frustrating as they are fun. If you’re a fan of one or two, but not all three, four or five artists on stage, you wind up slumping in your seat half the night. And if you’re a fan of each, you can’t help wishing that they had more time to shine. This night, for instance, despite the concert running a little longer than two hours, the format only allotted Emmy and Shawn seven songs each and Patty eight, plus one group sing-along on “I’ll Be Back.”

(Unfortunately, no videos from this particular concert are on YouTube; and none for the three singing “I’ll Be Back.” So you’ll have of trust me when I say it sounded like three of God’s messengers delivering the Word from above; and, of course, the Word was Love.)