Tag Archives: World Cafe Live

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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Shelby Lynne & Allison Moorer in Philadelphia, 8/25/2017

Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer’s new album, Not Dark Yet, is a sublime set that finds the sisters adding a wondrous luster to borrowed gems penned by the likes of Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zandt and Merle Haggard, among others. In a way, it’s the sonic equivalent of jewelry row in Philadelphia – or, to change metaphors, an exhibit at the Museum of Art. Each painting reflects and transcends the reality that birthed them. But when the Moorer sisters performed the same 10 songs last night at the World Cafe Live in West Philly, it was as if those paintings morphed into a spellbinding motion picture filled with shadows and light.

Shelby, for her part, radiated a colorful Janis Joplin-like vibe. “Thank you for coming out on a Monday night,” she crowed at evening’s start, apparently unaware – until the laughter kicked in – that it was Friday. Allison, on the other hand, maintained a more restrained demeanor. But when their voices blended together as one, such as on this Louvin Brothers classic…

…or this Jessi Colter classic…

…well, what can be said? The magic they created was astounding. In a similar vein, when they weaved their voices in and out, and traded lead vocals, such as on Dylan’s “Not Dark Yet,” the stark beauty of the confessional (“Sometimes my burden is more than I can bear/It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there”) stunned the audience into silence.

By far, the most moving moment of the set – at least for me – came with their rendition of Nick Cave’s “Into My Arms.”

On album, as the clip above shows, it’s hypnotic. But live? It’s an epiphany. I’m kicking myself now for not recording it.

I’d say the same for their entire 80-minute (give or take) show. It was a mesmerizing night filled with shadows and light, darkness and hope, the chosen songs shedding insights into life itself, though those insights are damned difficult to put into words.

One of the things I most enjoyed: their obvious affection for one another – and the music. At one point, Allison stepped close to her sister and seemed to encourage her to take the next verse; Shelby mouthed “you sure?” – and then did so with relish. And Shelby, when waiting to chime in on the chorus or take the next vocal, looked like a supernova in the midst of a musical galaxy, burning brighter with each chord. It was cool to witness.

One more thought: Obvious from the featured clips is that none of them are mine. We had front-row seats, which gave us a great view of Allison – especially when she sat at the keyboards in front of us – but a somewhat distant view of Shelby. Rather than swing my iPhone back and forth (and give myself whiplash in the process), I took a few pictures and left it at that.

Here’s a good one of Allison:

Garrett Kato in Philadelphia, 7/5/2017

I’d be remiss in writing about Kasey Chambers’ phenomenal show at the World Cafe Live in Philadelphia without mentioning the opening act, Garrett Kato. He found himself on the tour, he said, because of Kasey’s grace. She heard him busking on a street corner, bought his CD and, later that same day, wrote about how good he was on Facebook. It took his girlfriend to explain that Kasey is sort of (and sort of not) like Dolly Parton in Australia. They eventually bumped into each other in a recording studio – and now he’s not only opening for her on this tour, but manning the soundboard.

Such small acts of kindness are less small to those on the receiving end, of course, especially one who’s an up-and-coming singer-songwriter. (The terrain has changed so much from the days of yore that, honestly, I wonder sometimes why so many still choose that path. But that’s a post for another day.)

Anyway, I wish I knew the names of all the songs he performed, but aside from a very cool cover of “My Girl” I can’t. Oh, and this one, “The River Mouth” –

When he got to the part where he incorporates “Dancing in the Dark” – well, I have a bruise the size of Nebraska on my arm now thanks to Diane, who was so excited to hear a bit of the Boss that she began punching me.

Obvious by the fact that the clip is from Columbus, I suppose, is that no one in the audience captured this night’s performance (or, at least, uploaded it to YouTube). That’s no reflection on him and his talent, just – speaking for myself – the realities of battery-operated devices. Not only are his songs damn good, but he has a disarming stage presence – and a wondrous grainy texture to his voice. Here’s another song, also from Columbus, that he sang in Philly:

He also reflected on his move, seven years back, from Canada to Australia, which became more-or-less permanent when he met a girl there and they had a baby. He also shared a funny story of writing a sweet song for his mom when she was going through a tough time… only to have the producers of Bad Moms ask to use it in the movie. He then had to call his mother and explain that a payday would have to trump his heartfelt sentiment. (It was funnier when he told it. Trust me.) The song is “Sweet Jane” – not to be confused with the Lou Reed/Velvet Underground classic – and is well worth the listen.

Here’s a version he uploaded to YouTube: