- CHAPMAN SHOWCASES HER MANY MOOD – THE BOSTON GLOBE, Steve Morse, Published: October 20, 2005
Sheer artistry might be the best way to describe Tracy Chapman’s stunning performance at the nearly sold-out Orpheum on Tuesday. She transfixed her fans with fiery political anthems, killed them softly with the most hushed love songs imaginable, and won them over with a varied repertoire that has only deepened since she was a student at Tufts in the late 1980s.
Chapman was magnificent from start to finish. She was shy and retiring in her stage banter (”As some of you know, I used to live here,” she said sheepishly), but she was overwhelmingly powerful when she began singing. Fronting a trio that ably followed her every nuance, she captured the crowd instantly with two working-class anthems, ”Subcity” (about being left behind by the American Dream) and the urgent ”Why?”
Rarely has a show started with two more vividly caring tunes. And it only got better, as Chapman touched base with not only her earliest hits, ”Fast Car” and ”Talkin’ Bout a Revolution,” but also new tracks such as the reflective ”Change,” the hopeful ”Don’t Dwell,” and the angry ”America,” where she bashed selfishness. The new songs carried much more energy than their recorded versions. She also did a stirring duet with opening act Ben Taylor on Bob Dylan’s ”Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.”
Along the way, Chapman soothed on acoustic guitar, rocked on electric, and wailed on drums. She fused coffeehouse folk with Billie Holiday-like soul and soaring gospel. And she finally thrilled the crowd by pulling out a Les Paul guitar to perform ”Give Me One Reason” (her love song of love songs) with a double-time coda that was a sudden but welcome dose of punk-folk. It was a fitting climax from a woman who has always done things her own way.
- CHAPMAN MAKES ATRIUMPHANT RETURN TO HUB – BOSTON HERALD , Bill Brotherton, Published: October 20, 2005
Tracy Chapman seemed puzzled by the request of a vociferous fan early in her show Tuesday night at the Orpheum. “You want me to rock ‘n’ roll?” Chapman asked.
“Not rock ‘n’ roll, Tracy,” the fan hollered back. “Welcome home!”
Indeed, the former Tufts student and Harvard Square busker received a warm bearhug of a homecoming from her fans, who were so boisterous they bordered on annoying.
Chapman, 41, did rock ‘n’ roll a bit. But mostly she blended her gorgeous love songs with tunes that expressed her liberal political views. The Cleveland native truly is a voice for the underprivileged and disenfranchised.
She opened with “Subcity,” which featured the line “I’d like to please give Mr. President my honest regards, for disregarding me.” The vitriolic “America,” from her new CD “Where You Live,” was a bitter look at life today in the United States. The timeless “Talkin’ Bout a Revolution” from her Grammy-winning 1988 debut followed; “the tables are starting to turn,” she sang. Perhaps it’s coincidence her best music has been created when a Bush occupied the White House.
The unobtrusive backup band – drummer Quinn Smith, a New England Conservatory grad, and guitarist Joe Gorr – and simple arrangements helped keep the focus on Chapman’s heartfelt, poetic lyrics. Telling stories is her strength, whether it’s the down-on-their-luck couple in “Fast Car” or the spurned lover in “Baby Can I Hold You.”
The new single “Change” was an early highlight in the 100-minute show. Opening act Ben Taylor unexpectedly joined Chapman for a rousing version of Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” early on; such collaborations usually are reserved for the encore. “Give Me One Reason” earned the night’s loudest ovation, starting as 12-bar blues and concluding as a Ramones-speed rocker. Chapman closed with a curious cover of the Cure’s “Lovesong.”
Martha’s Vineyard-raised Taylor, sweet baby of James and ex-wife Carly Simon, opened with a short, effective set that included a cover of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U.” It’s obvious from Taylor’s songwriting, vocal style and guitar playing that his dad is a big influence.
Tracy Chapman, with Ben Taylor, at the Orpheum, Boston, Tuesday night.