Thursday, August 18, 2005

John Hiatt and Shawn Colvin Live at the House of Blues Anaheim

Okay, so let’s pretend you are a singer/songwriter and you find yourself at the Hiatt/Colvin show with a to-do list in your hand. What would the short list be? Hmmmm…

  1. Pick up the guitar and don’t let go for, uhmmm, I don’t know, 5… 6 years? Watching Shawn play with her elegance and sophistication and with such ease should make most young singer/songwriters decide to switch to piano. Now, if they go see Ben Folds then they’re in real trouble. John is no slouch either on guitar, ripping off acoustic leads like he’s holding a machine gun. But Shawn just makes it look so easy.
  2. Take voice lessons. Better yet, get someone else to sing the songs. Shawn has a beautiful voice. And John… well, some brilliant DJ/PD (was it on KSCA or WCR?) once played Don Henley’s version of “Through Your Hands” back to back with John’s (I think it was one of those A-Z things). There was no comparison. John has this wonderfully soulful voice that is so full of emotion.
  3. Take some songwriting classes, ‘cause these are two of the best.
  4. Get a stronger anti-depressant, ‘cause you just ain’t that good.

So Shawn comes out with her guitar and beret and funky clothing and wows this, I’d say, 70% Hiatt audience. She came to work and must have gone a good 15 to 20 minutes before deciding to have a long chat with the audience. She once again told the story about her touring Europe with Suzanne Vega; segueing into “Polaroids”. But she also came up with a 4 year old story about going to Disneyland that I hadn’t heard before. It probably had something to do with the show being in Downtown Disney and her daughter running on the stage to chat with her. Her daughter later went into the audience and then climbed onto the stage, leading to my favorite line of the evening: “Where is that nanny we hired off the street this morning to watch you?” Musically it was a typical set that lasted about an hour and twenty minutes. But, about two thirds of the way through the set she blessed us with 3 new songs. For those setting your timers, move it forward six months. February is the planned release date of her next CD. The new songs sounded really good. She said it is going to be a very downbeat CD and 2 of the 3 songs fit that mold. She finished her set off with “Killing the Blues” and then “Round of Blues”, but saved the big highlight for the encore: “Four Seasons in One Day”. It was magnificent.

I haven’t seen John Hiatt solo in many many years. He is truly one of America’s great songwriters. And he proved it, not by going back and playing his best songs, but by focusing on the where he is today. It was a good hour into the set before he dipped back into his prime years (1987-1990). Thinking back, he may have slipped one in (I think he performed “Your Dad Did” during the first half), but the first hour was all about the current Hiatt; including lots of songs from the new “Master of Disaster” CD, and the not too old “Crossing Muddy Waters” and “The Tiki Bar is Open”. Although I enjoyed the “Master of Disaster” CD, the live renditions along with the stories behind them, made me want to go back and listen to it again; as John might say, “With new ears”. The second half of the set mixed songs from 1987 and beyond. As the set neared its end, he moved to the piano where you have no choice but to be moved. I believe he is at his most soulful when playing it. He, of course did “Through Your Hands” at the end of this section and closed off the show with “Slow Turning”, which, as always, brought the house down. One of the highlights of the evening was his story about pulling off to the side of the road and watching the space shuttle launch, only to later learn that “Perfectly Good Guitar” was onboard. It turns out that the crew loved “Blue Telescope”; the only song he played on electric guitar this night. John played for almost 2 hours, and if it wasn’t for the pain in my feet from standing, it would have felt like 10 minutes. This was one of those rare evenings were we all (Me, Maria, Susie and her friend, and Shawn’s greatest fan… I can’t remember her name, but she has only been to two concerts since her breast cancer started. And yes, both were Colvin shows) easily got our money’s worth. 1 twisted catholic boy (“it never leaves you”) plus 1 depressed Austinite equals a very happy nearly full HOB.

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