Mary Chapin Carpenter and Shawn Colvin bring it all home at the Power Center
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Chris Asadian | for AnnArbor.com
In a way, though, the audience was ahead of them: From the moment the pair walked on stage hand-in-hand, a particularly enthusiastic welcome made it clear they were already among old friends.
The two accomplished and beloved singer-songwriter-guitarists turned in a two-hour-plus show that maintained a loose, relaxed and fun vibe, while still keeping the musicianship tight throughout. It was just the two women's voices and their guitars, but that was more than enough.
That's largely because the performances delivered a string of such well-done and well-crafted songs. At this stage in their careers, both Carpenter and Colvin have extensive songbooks of their own strong work, and they drew from throughout them. In addition, they highlighted several cover songs, invariably making smart and effective choices.
The concert opened with "Catch the Wind," and I bet Donovan wishes he could have made it sound that good. Other great covers included a thoughtful version of Steve Earle's "Someday" and a gorgeous interpretation of the Beatles' "I'll Be Back."
From her own catalog, Carpenter went back as far as the old favorite "This Shirt"; delighted fans with "He Thinks He'll Keep Her" and "I Feel Lucky"; and introduced a brand new song, "Hand On My Back," that drew some of the evening's most extended applause.
Colvin's classics included "Polaroids" and, of course, her huge hit "Sunny Came Home"; she also offered newer material like "Change is On the Way."
The two seamlessly blended full-blown duets, some songs with one singer backing up the other, and some fully solo numbers. It all worked, but they were best together; their voices harmonize terrifically, particularly as heard on Colvin's "One Cool Remove." But my favorite moment came during Carpenter's "The Hard Way," when she encouraged Colvin to sing a verse solo—while Carpenter whispered each line to her.
If at times it seemed like Carpenter and Colvin were spending as much time talking (and laughing) as singing Tuesday, that wasn't necessarily a bad thing. Their rapport seems genuine, and their stories—about growing older, the songwriting process, and so on—were entertaining.
Carpenter even reminisced about her first visit to Ann Arbor, at age 19, crashing at a friend's place as she made her way to Colorado. While here, she was talked into performing one song at the open-mic night being held at The Ark—the same legendary club that sponsored Tuesday's concert.
"I've never forgotten it," Carpenter said. "Life is one great big beautiful circle."