Concert Review: Mary Chapin Carpenter

Mary Chapin Carpenter and her band rocking "I Feel Lucky" at the Egyptian Theater in Boise

Mary Chapin Carpenter and her band rocking “I Feel Lucky” at the Egyptian Theater in Boise

For some 20 years, WC and Mrs. WC owned a cabin outside of Fairbanks, on the North Fork of the Chena River. The cabin was off the grid, but we had a battery-powered CD-player that got a lot of use, and a small library of CDs we kept there. One of the CDs that got the most play time was Mary Chapin Carpenter’s Come On Come On, her 1992 quadruple-Platinum fourth album. The New York Times‘ Karen Schoemer wrote of it, “Enriched with Ms. Carpenter’s subtlety, Come On Come On grows stronger and prettier with every listen.” It’s true. And her subsequent albums, while perhaps not quite as strong, are still a cut above most of commercial pablum and junk released today.

But we never were able to see her perform live.

We fixed the problem Thursday, when Carpenter was at Boise’s Egyptian Theater for a show. Australian Emily Barker opened with a nice set that showed off her impressive voice, especially in an a cappella version of J.B.F. Wright’s “Precious Memories.” Barker also sang backup on some of Carpenter’s tunes.

Carpenter has been at it some 30 years now. She has a shelf full of Grammy’s and a couple of platinum records. But her concerts are still intimate affairs, where she connects to her audiences at a level other artists can only envy. It’s something to see.

Carpenter is simply a terrific live act. She quickly built a warm relationship with her Egyptian Theater audience, with stories from her 30 years on the road, the back stories on songs and some lively interaction with the audience. Her warm, rich contralto voice adds to that intimacy. She gave us ballads, blues, cajun and wonderful rock and roll. It was an outstanding concert, filled with old favorites (“Passionate Kisses,” “He Thinks He’ll Keep Her,” “I Feel Lucky”) and some great new tunes. The woman can rock down the house, and do a tender ballad, too. All in all, an excellent concert from one of the best live acts around today.

It was a treat to see her live. WC extends his thanks to Mary Chapin Carpenter for coming to Boise where, in Lucinda Williams’s words, she had “a full house and a rock ‘n’ roll band.” And an audience of passionate fans. Including, as you can probably tell, WC.