Shawn Colvin, Nina Storey @ Chautauqua AuditoriumBy Candace Horgan | July 10th, 2008 | No Comments »
Shawn Colvin proved the merit of her back-to-basics approach at Chautauqua Auditorium on Monday. Photos by Mark T. Osler.
There are certain venues, certain concerts, that seem to be what summer memories are made of. Red Rocks in Morrison is certainly one of those; Chautauqua Auditorium in Boulder is definitely another. Is there any better way to spend a lazy summer evening than in the shadow of the Flatirons listening to music in a venue that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places?
Monday night, Shawn Colvin returned for another performance at Chautauqua. Wandering through the park on the way to the venue, hearing children screaming as they played and smelling outdoor cooking, it all smacked of a perfect summer evening.
Colorado’s own Nina Storey opened the show, coming on at 8 p.m. to play a short set as people continued to file in. Storey displayed a dizzying vocal range, at times nearly overwhelming the PA. She could quickly go from a whisper to a heartfelt wail, especially on the last song of the set, “Woman,” where she held a note for an impressively long time. Storey spotlighted songs from her latest CD “So Many Ways From:me to:you,” mostly sticking to the piano for the set, including on “Mary is Walking.” Storey, who plays guitar left-handed, did use the guitar on the funk-tinged “Getting Over You,” which she sung with a sly smile.
Colvin came on at 9 p.m., carrying only her acoustic guitar, and as she sat down said, “Here we are again.” Unlike some artists, Colvin only played one guitar all night. She took a few moments to get the monitors right, as they had too much guitar coming through them, and launched into “Crazy,” a single she released in 2007 that features Colvin’s beautiful fingerpicking.
Colvin often avails herself of other instruments and effects on her albums. In concert, she strips everything down to just her guitar and voice, and the songs are much more powerful as a result. In fact, hearing the songs like that made me wish she would stop adding extraneous instruments on her albums, and perhaps release a live CD with all her best songs soon.
Hearing the solo arrangements, Colvin’s guitar playing is a revelation. She is an underrated guitarist, alternating between fingerpicking and strumming on different songs, and tuning up, sans tuner, as she goes. In fact, while she was struggling to get the guitar tuned for one song, she talked about opening for Sting, and how proud she is to go onstage without the miscellaneous junk, and when she came off Sting said, “They make tuners, you know.” She laughed it off, telling a fictional story about how she confronted him over all the excess, before saying that she hadn’t said anything except: “Thank you, Mr. Sting.”
Colvin started slowly, but by the fourth song, a beautiful version of “Cinnamon Road,” she was in gear. “Shotgun Down the Avalanche” featured gorgeous fingerpicking, and every nuance could be heard clearly, including her boot tapping out a rhythm.
During Colvin’s hour-plus set, the venue, which opens the sides to the outside so that picnickers can hear the music, chilled down some, which seemed to make the performance even more intimate. Colvin mostly stuck to material from her biggest albums, “A Few Small Repairs” and “These Four Walls.” She introduced “Wichita Skyline” by saying it was the obligatory songwriter’s song that must be written about getting out of your own hometown; funny, since she is actually from South Dakota.
On the bridge, she toyed with the tempo a bit and slyly threw in some “rock star”-like guitar playing. Other highlights of her set included the smash hit “Sunny Came Home” and a lovely slow blues, “I’m Gone.”
Colvin came back for a three-song encore, first playing “Killing the Blues,” the only song from her 1994 covers collection “Cover Me” that she played all night, and ended the encore with “Diamonds in the Rough,” which started with some excellent percussive guitar playing. Colvin remarked on how much she liked playing at Chautauqua, saying, “I always feel like a rock star in this place.”
Reverb contributor Candace Horgan is a Denver-based writer.
Mark T. Osler is a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer and regular Reverb contributor.
MORE PHOTOS: Nina Storey