Given that this is my second concert review in a month, both of my regular readers may think that all Christine and I do in our spare time is attend shows at Wolf Trap. Rest assured that this is not the case, the two main reasons being that we cannot afford it and my crowd threshold is way too low to attend concerts anywhere on a regular basis.
Regardless, this show was a treat. I have always enjoyed Shawn Colvin and even got to see her at the Beale Street Music Festival in Memphis more than 10 years ago. On the other hand, I have been a huge John Hiatt fan since high school and I saw him at the Fortune/Williams Music Festival in Staunton, VA two years ago. They are touring together for the first time this summer, performing acoustic sets, and they make a good joint ticket.
Colvin opened the show, sitting on a stool and churning out an hour of moody folk-influenced tunes covering her entire catalogue, from 1991’s Steady On to 2006’s These Four Walls. Colvin’s greatest strengths are her observant lyrics and her haunting voice, which alternates between heartbreaking pleas and sardonic commentary. Her lyrics lean towards darker stuff such as heartache, loneliness, and disappointment; and she even joked about these tendencies during the show. Hiatt joined her onstage for the encore.
Hiatt took the stage about 30 minutes after the end of Colvin’s show and opened with the rousing “Cry Love.” He engaged the crowd from the get-go, joking and introducing some of the songs with funny (and sometime strange) anecdotes. As Thursday night happened to be the 30th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death, Hiatt introduced the Elvis-obsessed song “Tennessee Plates” with a story about where he was and what he was doing when he heard about Presley’s death. This song also featured some impressive fretwork; one of the advantages of seeing Hiatt live is that he demonstrates his considerable proficiency with the guitar far moreso than on his records. His set included many of his standards, including “Memphis in the Meantime,” “Trudy and Dave” (by request), “Feels Like Rain,” “Drive South,” “Your Dad Did,” and “Crossing Muddy Waters.” He road-tested two songs off of his next album: “How ‘bout Them Dogs” and “Go Home With You.” For the encore, he traded his guitar in for the copiously covered “Have A Little Faith in Me,” and then was joined by Shawn Colvin for “You Must Go” and closed out the night with his breakthrough hit “Slow Turning.”
Hiatt’s voice is a gravelly, smoky alto; he can growl and howl with the best of them. By the end of the show, I was exhilarated and worn-out, which I guess is all that one can ask. It was another evening well-spent.