In fine voice and even better mood, Shawn Colvin served up subtle songs and singing on Saturday at The Egg’s Swyer (smaller) Theatre while Jeffrey Gaines sang bolder and bigger. She sang mainly of loneliness, often sadly; while he proclaimed a resilient self-sufficiency.
Colvin started with The Band’s desolate “Twilight” and wound up with an encore of Bob Dylan’s “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go.” In between were twilit moods of loss and lonely travels. She ironically acknowledged “These Four Walls” as “a cheery little number.” It was anything but. “Polaroids” that followed was sadder still, recounting a failed love affair on a European tour and a lonely return to New York City in winter. There was nowhere to go after that but “Shotgun Down the Avalanche,” another cheery little number of bleak despair matched only by “Wichita Skyline” about seeking to escape but failing.
When she held long notes as endings of “You and Mona Lisa” and “I Don’t Know Why,” Colvin gave one last tug on the heartstrings as if to keep her capacity audience from limping away from the songs, but everyone had to linger through the last nuance of heartbreak.
OK, OK, so not EVERYTHING was thorns and pain — in part because Colvin’s voice was lovely as a rose, as usual, but also because some songs had as much lift as her deeper songs had weight.
“Diamond in the Rough” was as uncomplicated a love song as Colvin has written; and she sang it for beauty and devotion on Saturday. “Steady On” offered all-purpose encouragement while “Killing the Blues” both described and offered cool catharsis. It also helped that Colvin was seriously funny, as usual — though she talked less than in some past shows here.
When she broke a string while tuning (always an adventure and often a delay), she shrugged, “Story time, I guess,” and rambled, like a blue-highways journey without a map, through red-state/blue state musings (she’s from South Dakota and had just sung about Kansas) to wind up expressing disbelief that her daughter is now 10, then sang “A Matter of Minutes,” possibly pop music’s most ambivalent song about motherhood.
Ultimately that complexity made Colvin’s show so satisfying, since it strengthened even the soaring sweetness of “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go,” a song so devastating that no one asked for another encore when she finished it.
Jeffrey Gaines stopped in mid-song — “Hero in Me,” about self-reliance — to muse, or brag, “Pretty complicated for a first single,” which it was. Wrapping up his short opening set, he lamented not having enough time to show “the range of my range.” But his strong, self-regarding songs connected well: pungent/poetic words powered by a soulful voice.
Gaines in fact showed why he’s a popular opener of choice hereabouts — for Barenaked Ladies at the Times Union Center and Tori Amos at the Palace, among others. Songs mourned both parents and expressed concern for friends in the military, but most songs were recipes for inner strength, and they were tasty.
Reach Michael Hochanadel at [email protected]