- Chapman gives crowd plenty of reasons to shut up and listen – By: Michael Corcoran, Austin American Statesman, Monday, August 4, 2003
Whoa, what a crowd! Did Tracy Chapman have a hit in, oh, the last 15 years that I didn’t know about? With last year’s “Let It Rain” CD failing to make much noise on the sales charts, you’d think the dreadlocked Clevelander would play to a half-filled house. But when I arrived at 8 p.m. sharp, just as opener Joseph Arthur was plugging in his Insipidizer of canned backing loops, the 5,000-capacity Backyard was almost full, with hundreds waiting in line to get in. But the security guard at the entrance solved the mystery. “We gave away a couple thousand tickets and it looks like they all showed up,” he explained. Saturday was Chapman’s final date of a U.S. tour, so why not “paper the house” and end with a big party? Concession sales would make up for the shortage of paid admissions. Everybody wins, right?
Everybody except those who came to hear Chapman sing. When you don’t pay to get in, you apparently have riotously funny conversations during songs that feature a cello. You take pictures of your friends with your phone and then shriek when you see how they came out. You wear plastic leis and try to balance 14 empty beer cans on the way to the trash. You dance and hoot to the two songs you know — “Fast Car” and “Give Me One Reason” — but wonder why the night’s cover band is doing all those boring originals. You bring your kids.
The solar-stained Philistines began their exodus halfway through the show, but didn’t move nearly fast enough to get the venue back to some semblance of intimacy. Where’s a good cattle prod when you need one?
The lucky ones were the folks assembled in a tight clump directly in front of the stage, where the music drowned out the chattering. They must’ve seen a great show, swaying together on the Beatles-worthy “Can I Hold You Tonight” and awash in the righteous honesty of “Telling Stories.” When it comes to riveting, Rosie’s got nothing on T-Chap.
But for the rest of us, Saturday was Folk Night at Carlos ‘N Charlie’s, the “Wild On . . .” episode in which bikini babes are intercut with images of civil rights marchers being fire-hosed in Alabama. Next time, Chapman plays the Paramount, and everybody pays, OK?
- TRACY CHAPMAN RECOMMENDED (08/02/03 @ The Backyard) – By: Belinda Acosta, The Austin Chronicle
Few performers target the emotional solar plexus with precision like Tracy Chapman. Catapulted to stardom in 1988 with her self-titled debut, featuring still-riveting cuts like “Fast Car” and “Talkin’ ’Bout a Revolution,” she’s not entirely comfortable under the limelight. She shrinks from the open-heart interviews and publicity people tend to expect from the famous. She prefers to pour herself into her work, producing a new album almost yearly, including Let It Rain, her sixth and newest album.
The music business has changed since she first hit the scene, Chapman acknowledged. “It’s so funny. I don’t know if I’d call it the music business anymore. Now it’s about creating an image and a product related to music.” She pauses to consider her words. “I think we’re going to look back at this time and realize there’s a lot we overlooked, not just in music but in other arts.”
Not that Chapman lives under a rock. On the contrary, her songs have always been equally conscious of the world as the corners of the heart, all written with the same literate acuity. Though known as a solo, acoustic artist, a small backup band accompanies her on “Let It Rain.” The centerpiece of this album, however, as in all her albums, is her succulent, dignified voice.
Let It Rain covers the familiar territory of love, sorrow, loneliness, and passion. The murky “In the Dark,” and the kicky “Hard Wired” could serve as the album’s bookends, each critiquing the overheated pop-culture machine.
“There have been several interesting interpreta-tions of ‘In the Dark,’” Chapman says. “It is using light and dark as a metaphor, starting with the desire to know and not know at the same time … that struggle to be aware but not tainted.”
“Hard Wired” is more direct: “Your wants and desires/Needs and wishes … Turned into sitcom dialog/And advertising slogans.”
That Chapman endures in spite of her nearly direct opposition to what the great media machine encourages is a testament to her ability to cut through the muck and get at what’s most human. Of course, Chapman is modest when explaining her staying power.
“I’m really lucky. Over the years I’ve managed to maintain a devoted fan base, people who bought the first record and stayed with me.”
Tracy Chapman closes her Let it Rain tour Saturday night, 8pm. Tickets $35, 469-SHOW. Joseph Arthur opens. – Belinda Acosta
VENUE: The Backyard, 13101 Hwy. 71 West, Austin, TX – USA (Capacity: 5000)
PROMOTER: Clear Channel Entertainment
OPENING ACT: Joseph Arthur