Friday night was the show. Gina and I don't get out enough, so we had a great time--and we had to drive less than five miles to get there (the Washington Center, downtown Oly).
It was a loose and terrific gig, starting with Wainwright playing several songs from his new 10 Songs for the New Depression (Proper Records) on guitar before switching to piano and performing a couple of older ones, including his classic "Red Guitar." Somewhere in the middle of his set, he spaced on some lyrics, blaming the goof on "not getting to take a nap" or missing one of his dietary supplements.
Yet Wainwright is a masterful communicator, and not only via his remarkable humor. There's a lot of sadness between the lines of his narratives about his family, and a sense of wonderment about living longer than his father (who died at 63; Wainwright is 64). Even as the audience was cracking up at "Unfriendly Skies," the story of LWIII watching his Martin D28 guitar falling off the luggage cart and breaking at the Durango Airport, they could sense his pain.
Obviously proud of winning his first Grammy for his 2009 tribute to Charlie Poole,
High, Wide and Lonesome (2nd Story Sound), he told the amusing story of being nominated in 1985--the year the late Steve Goodman won the award for Best Contemporary Folk Album. The following year, LWIII was nominated again--this time losing out to a Steve Goodman tribute album.
Wainwright brought out Colvin to duet with him on two songs. A wobbly start gave way to an otherwise lovely rendition of Richard Thompson's "A Heart Needs a Home," which they had recorded in 1992 on the RT covers album Beat the Retreat. Here, they connected, and the good feeling carried over to Colvin's set, although she had a noisy guitar pickup or something that caused a few interruptions.
Colvin's singing is as distinctive as ever, and she represented most of her recorded work with beautiful guitar tunings and playing--I've loved her voice for so long that I had forgotten that she does a lot more than mere strumming. There were several tunes from her last studio album, 2006's These Four Walls (Nonesuch), including Paul Westerberg's "Even Here We Are" and the superb title track, but she went all the way back to "Shotgun Down the Avalanche" and "Polaroids," too.
She talked about some of her best musical friends, the informal group Three Girls and Their Buddy (SC, Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin and Buddy Miller). Griffin and Miller are currently touring with Robert Plant.
If Colvin's set included several first rate songs and covers, her encore was the best of all. She started with her eerie solo version of Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" from her 2009 Live album, and then "Killing the Blues." And to finish, Lefty Frizzell's gorgeous "That's the Way Love Goes," which Colvin has been playing live for nearly twenty years, but you'd never detect a lack of enthusiasm there.
A wonderful show, and neither LWIII nor Colvin bothered to perform their lone hit
single--Colvin left out "Sunny Came Home." Wainwright got a cry, early on, for
" 'Dead Skunk'!" (we were embarrassed, because the guy may just as well have yelled,
" 'Free Bird'!"; guess Olympia is no longer the hippest small town in the U.S.). LWIII's
response: "I need extra money to do that one." Gina and I are in complete agreement on this idea: performers should play what they want to play at their shows.
This gig was a bit raggedy, but so right.