- Chapman insightful beyond her years – By: Mark Brown, Rocky Mountain News, July 1, 2003
This is a career that easily could have gone bad. Tracy Chapman burst through on her debut album in 1988 with incredibly mature songwriting in the form of Fast Car and other hits.
Before the year was out, she was sharing the stage with the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Peter Gabriel on the Amnesty International tour, thrust into a world far removed from the street busking she used to do in Boston.
Yet 15 years later, Chapman still has her head on straight – and more importantly, is still writing character sketches and compelling music equal to that debut.
With her rich voice and precise guitar playing, Chapman thrilled a full house at the Paramount on Monday night, tripping through new material and scattering her own classics throughout the set.
Her songs are almost invariably moral questions examining right and wrong, justice, fairness, reality and illusion, whether on a global scale or personal.
Amazingly, she rarely comes off as preachy (the dated-sounding Talkin’ About a Revolution being an exception).
Instead, she couches her messages in songs that are realistic but hopeful – acknowledging that it’s a cold, hard world but hoping that faith and virtue will pay off.
That was the theme of the broken lives in early hits Fast Car and Baby Can I Hold You. If anything, over the years Chapman has become even more insightful in her character sketches. The social misfit and the lover who enables the boorish behavior is perfectly captured in the ode to co-dependency You’re the One.
Likewise, the title track of Telling Stories takes a clear, cold look at a person whose whole life is a lie, who can survive only by creating drama and chaos all around.
“You would do and say anything,” Chapman sings, “to make your everyday life a little less mundane.”
And yes, 15 years after the fact, Chapman is still a big Amnesty International supporter, allowing the agency to set up in the lobby and extolling their work from the stage.
If you’re going to have a meaningful career in music, you can’t do much better than Chapman has done.
The drawback of making such emotionally charged music can be fans who can’t separate the line between the performer and themselves. The Paramount crowd was adoring, even giving Chapman a standing ovation between songs.
But some fans took it too far, screaming “I love you” during quiet segments and trying to engage Chapman in conversation from the stage.
Chapman, unfortunately, is too polite and accommodating to properly shut down such antics.
- Chapman pours out river of honey/ Singer delivers sincere messages – By The Gazette (Colorado Springs, CO), July 3, 2003 | BILL REED; THE GAZETTE
To be honest, I expected Tracy Chapman’s concert to send me over the edge and zooming into the nearest suicide ward.
On record, Chapman’s music can come off as samey and depressing, treading morose ground again and again. But that was not the vibe she created Wednesday night at the mostly full Pikes Peak Center.
Chapman holds a certain mystique, and a tingle went through the crowd as she stepped on stage in jeans, a simple black shirt and her trademark dreadlocks.
She’s known for her shyness, but Wednesday she was chatty and friendly, her girlish speaking voice a shock compared with her deep alto singing.
Mmm, that voice. It is honey and chocolate, a wide river that carries her words. Her voice was the center of the show, from the opener “Say Hallelujah” (my favorite song from her new album “Let It Rain”) to the hypnotic “you, you, you, you” refrain of “For My Lover.”
The words that voice carries certainly don’t shame the vehicle. From her first hits, “Fast Car” and “Talkin’ Bout a Revolution,” Chapman established herself as one of the finest folk lyricists in recent memory.
Her writing is relevant and direct. Her messages are simple and sincere. When she sings “Why are missiles called Peacekeepers, when they’re aimed to kill? ” it makes one think rather than sneer. And when she sings of the desperate wish for love in “Baby Can I Hold You,” the chill and sadness resonate on deep levels.
Chapman didn’t come alone to the Pikes Peak Center. She brought a six-piece band adept at creating shimmering backdrops to her music while never upstaging her voice and acoustic guitar.
The band veered from funky interludes to countrified sounds (believe it or not, Tracy Chapman’s drummer wears a cowboy hat), as the members formed a soft wall of sound that saved Chapman from being too spare and raw.
Speaking of spare and raw, opener eastmountainsouth was a perfect complement to Chapman’s set.
The duo of Kat Maslich and Peter Adams (joined by drummer Quinn), fused Americana roots and pop sensibilities into a charming set.
Maslich was raised on Clinch Mountain (the place of bluegrass legend), and Adams is a classically trained composer. Together they make a refreshing blend of new roots music, harmonize like siblings and are smart enough to turn Maslich’s remarkable voice loose on their songs.
eastmountainsouth’s eponymous debut album came out a few weeks ago, and I’m hoping it will receive the attention it deserves.
The band earned an amazing reception Wednesday night as the Colorado Springs crowd punctuated their set with a standing ovation.
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Tracy Chapman in concert Opener: eastmountainsouth Where: Pikes Peak Center When: Wednesday night Surprise: eastmountainsouth’s version of Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”
- Susan, 06/30/03: She and her band were frickin’ awesome last night. Tracy is such a gracious, gentle soul, but she also knows rock n roll instinctively and thoroughly. It was about 85 degrees in the Paramount last night (which the band was noticing, as exhibited by members pouring more water over their heads than in their mouths). She has two percussion sections (a drummer and another guy playing various other percussion instruments, and singing backup), organ, bass, fine lead guitarist, and a woman backup vocalist who has a killer voice to complement Tracy’s. The bass player played the cello too, beautifully on a few songs. I definitely have to buy her newest CD-she played several cuts from it, and they were excellent, esp. Another Sun.She had everyone out of their seats for the last couple numbers and shakin’it.
She’s heading East now-don’t miss her.
The setlist (in no particular order other than the first song and the last couple. I ain’t organized under those circumstances-lol, but I think this is 99% of the set)
Give Me One Reason
Talkin’ Bout A Revolution
She’s Got Her Ticket
Baby Can I Hold You
Smoke And Ashes
Let It Rain
You’re The One
Proud Mary (THIS SMOKED)
A Change Is Gonna Come
- Terry Jones, 07/01/03: the best show I have ever seen!
VENUE: Paramount Theatre, 1621 Glenarm Pl Denver, CO 87102 (Capacity: 1870)
OPENING ACT: EastMountainSouth