Shawn Colvin made a stop off to the glorious Union Chapel on a rare appearance to the UK. Her solo shows are typically intimate affairs: no fills, no loop pedals, just a gifted songwriter and her guitar.
Supporting was Blair Dunlop, a self-confessed fan of Shawn's music. His rhythmic, and percussive guitar playing is a giveaway, even if his lyrics are not as acerbic.
Shawn has always been candid about her struggles, and her shows are also warts and all events. There are engaging stories about how her potty mouth has got her into trouble and being a backing singer for Suzanne Vega, and then there are the songs themselves: the revealing vignettes are filled with melancholy, with just the occasional crack of light coming through.
It’s all deeply human and whilst it’s not a technically note-perfect set, the fact that there is perfection in imperfection is exactly what makes Shawn's music relatable. A highlight of the evening was a spontaneous rendition of Tom Waits' '(Looking For) The Heart of Saturday Night'. This song was requested by an audience member and despite saying she hadn’t performed it for a while, Shawn decided to go for it with a Devil May Care gusto. A few prompts and wrong steers from the audience, and some improvisation along the way, made it a perfect example of the spirit of her live shows and the relationship she has with her fans.
As far as her craft goes, she’s flawless. The beautiful love song ‘I Don’t Know Why’ is in fact a paean lullaby to self-love. Other songs come in the form of the dark and embittered ‘ Facts About Jimmy’ and 'Trouble' to the murder ballad ‘Sunny Came Home’. A cover of The Beatles ‘Get Back’ is given an idiosyncratic makeover along with The Band's, 'Twilight'.
Being a diamond in the rough is part of her longstanding appeal. There’s no pretense, no side, just an empathetic songstress who understands the human condition with all our faults and failings. As a modern folk hero, she stands in front of us, both vulnerable and fierce and we stand alongside her in awe.
Photos Gerry Driver