Emmylou Harris, John Prine @ Red Rocks

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Emmylou Harris mixed covers and new songs at Red Rocks on Friday.

Reverb contributor John Ealy checks in with this review of Friday’s show.

A songbird and a sage shared the stage Friday night when singer/songwriter legends Emmylou Harris and John Prine played a near-capacity show at Red Rocks Amphitheatre.

Harris opened, but the two would wander onto each other’s stage for several songs throughout the night, lending a convivial and egalitarian spirit to the evening. Each dressed in black, Harris on guitar and Prine backing her up, or Prine on guitar and Harris backing him up, this was an act of symmetry.

Harris came out strong, opening with “Here I Am.” That angelic voice reverberated off the towering red sandstone, floated on the wings of her five-piece band, the lyrics alighting on a thousand fans’ tongues as they joined in on the chorus. Earl Montgomery’s “One of These Days” followed, as did covers (Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale”; the Louvin brothers’ “If I Could Only Win Your Love”) and tunes from her new album, “All I Intended To Be,” which will be released Tuesday.

While lovely, Harris’ voice sounded a bit breathy in several passages, and her enunciation at times was difficult to understand, a result perhaps of the altitude or a faint breeze toward the end of her set. But her phrasing was impeccable, and she moved about the stage with the same grace as she sings. Harris obviously was having a good time: When the crowd responded warmly to songs from “All I Intended To Be” (“Sailing Around the Room” and Jude Johnstone’s “Hold On”), she apologized “for doing too much new.” She closed with a spirited take of Bill Monroe’s classic “Get Up John.”

With only a bass player and guitarist as backup, Prine blew onto the stage as the crowd thundered approval, opening with “Spanish Pipe Dream.” Nearly everybody seemed to be trying to find Jesus as they sang along on the refrain. Showcasing his wonderful wit and poetic insights, Prine was in command from the beginning.

The minimalist set put out a big sound. Switching between upright and electric bass, Dave Jacques laid down a smooth and consistent line. And guitarist Jason Wilber proved versatile, coaxing a heartfelt slide as easily as a big blues sound from his black Telecaster but never upstaging Prine. His slide work on “Storm Windows” was a highlight of the night. Prine paid tribute, as he always does, to his good friend, mentor and writer of “City of New Orleans” Steve Goodman on “Souvenirs,” whose memorable line could have come from Prine’s pen: “Broken hearts and dirty windows make life difficult to see.”

Prine covered a lot of territory but particularly stood out on “Hello in There,” “I Had a Dream” and “Six O’clock News.” He closed with “Lake Marie” but was enticed back for an encore to play “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You into Heaven Anymore.” From the man who wrote such pithy lines as “We were regular Dr. Jekyll, but together we were Mr. and Mrs. Hyde,” came a show in which, with opening act Harris, was a perfect marriage for longtime fans on a perfect evening on the Rocks.

John Ealy is a copy editor and designer for The Denver Post.