Shawn Colvin and Mary Chapin Carpenter – An Inspired Evening

It is a very astute move, pairing two sympatico artists for a tour. A dozen years ago I saw the first few shows of what became a landmark tour of James Taylor and Carole King. And more to the point, on my last visit to the California Center for the Arts I enjoyed a wonderful evening with Robert Earl Keene and Lyle Lovett. More recently, lucky folks were treated to an evening with Shawn Colvin and Mary Chapin Carpenter. As with the other pairings, both artists were onstage together the entire evening, trading songs and stories.

Shawn Colvin and Mary Chapin Carpenter

“End of Innocence” opened the show; Colvin and Carpenter set the stage for an evening of originals and choice covers. The Don Henley – Bruce Hornsby song was rendered in a tender and sympathetic way. Another cover followed, Donovan’s “Catch The Wind.” Colvin assayed several of her Grammy-winning songs, as did Carpenter. The evening was entirely acoustic, with Carpenter switching guitars often. Carpenter introduced “This Shirt” as thoroughly autobiographical, and Colvin’s harmonies added multi-hued layers.

Homage was paid to Emmylou Harris when the pair offered a tender rendition of “Raise the Dead.” The former performed on Colvin’s album All Fall Down from 2012. An equally mammoth American songwriter was spotlighted with Paul Simon’s “The Only Living Boy in New York.”

A new song, dropping the next day, was “Our Man Walter Cronkite,” which was introduced with memories about the most trusted man in America. Carpenter’s degree from Brown University in American Civilization likely gave her a solid perspective in writing that song.

A semi-goofy medley of cheesy AM classics signaled the end of the show, but the melodies of “Mandy / Africa / Daydream Believer / Ruby Don’t Take Your Love to Town / Islands in the Stream / Staying Alive / Close to You” had most in the audience smiling.

Speaking of hits, Colvin’s “Sunny Came Home” was at the top of the charts for several weeks and was the penultimate song of the evening. The pair, friends for three decades, finished with a stirring take on Carpenter’s “The Hard Way” and we were left with the memory of a superb evening by a pair of accomplished artists.



Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.