Tracy Chapman Croons at Sanders (The Harvard Crimson, November 1995)

By Kathryn R. Markham, The Harvard Crimson, Tuesday, November 28, 1995

Singer-songwriter Tracy Chapman kicked off a promotional tour for her latest album, ‘New Beginning,’ with a concert last night in Sanders Theatre.

Accompanied by a five-member band, Chapman led fans through a medley of her songs, interspersing old favorites with samplings from her latest work.

It seemed really appropriate to be coming here for a record called New Beginning at the place where everything started for me,” Chapman told her audience, in a nostalgic reference to the days she spent performing in Harvard Square while an undergraduate at Tufts University.

Tickets for the concert, which sold for $20.50, disappeared within a week of their November 13 issue, according to Sanders Theater Box Office Manager Tina Smith. Despite a dearth of publicity, promoters had no trouble filling Sanders 1,166 seats with eager fans–most of them Cambridge residents.

“If she had a bumper sticker, I would wear it…she’s god,” said Cambridge resident Cindy Barclay.

“I’m really drawn to the… political, personal, and social message that she sometimes can pinpoint really well,” added Lee Newberg, an Arlington resident.

At 7:50 p.m. as the lights dimmed in the theatre, hard percussion beats accompanied the yelling crowd that greeted Chapman’s arrival on stage. Dressed simply in jeans, and sleeveless black shirt, Chapman smiled almost shyly as she greeted fans.

Throughout the performance, Chapman alternated between an electric guitar, and her signature acoustic sound. After warming up with a number of songs from previous albums, Chapman performed a track entitled “Heaven’s Here on Earth,” a selection from her newest album. In the song, she appealed to audiences to recognize that “each of us holds inside the map to the labyrinth [of the universe].”

At one point, the band left the stage, leaving Chapman standing under a lone spotlight for a rendition of “Amazing Grace.”

As the evening progressed, Chapman’s performance was punctuated by shouts of “I love you, Tracy” and audience requests.

In one song, Chapman appealed to her audience to remember that “all that you have is your soul.”

Midway through the concert, Chapman paused to read from note cards filled out by fans before the concert began. The note cards contained appeals to pay attention to childrens’ welfare, confront “corporate power,” and simple pleas for “no more computers.”

Chapman herself took a moment to encourage all of her audience members to participate in their communities, through civic action such as voting.

It’s very important that we all have a say in what this world becomes,” Chapman said. The concert ended with a standing ovation, just before an encore rendition of “Talkin’ About a Revolution,” an early song that cemented Chapman’s reputation as a rising star.

The audience clapped along as Chapman sang and bounced across the stage admist the popping of flashbulbs. With a brief “Thank you” to her still-applauding fans, Chapman departed.

“She really seemed to enjoy herself on stage,” commented Boston resident Jennifer Hayes afterward, “I thought she had a kind of really good rapport with the audience.”

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