For nearly an hour and a half, Shawn Colvin held a nearly-packed crowd at The Egg’s Swyer Theatre in rapturous attention.
The South Dakota songwriter’s intricate guitar playing and ethereal voice could be nearly hypnotic at times. Song after song was filled with rich yet delicate strumming and finger picking, creating a wash of sounds that at times sounded like Colvin was hiding another player or two somewhere backstage.
She took her time warming up, though, her voice a bit rough on the set-opening Simon and Garfunkel’s “Get Your Plane Right on Time.” To top it off, she left her capo backstage, although it was delivered to her just in time for “Trouble.” If she seemed a bit flustered, she at least had an explanation for the crowd: “I just met Jakob Dylan before the show, and he is one nice specimen of an individual.”
(The younger Dylan’s concurrent performance at the Hart Theatre was mentioned numerous times in jest by both Colvin and audience alike — encore cheers for The Wallflowers’ “One Headlight” were particularly amusing.)
From here on out, Colvin was all business — well, sort of. Although the playing was crisp and tight on such standouts as “I’m Gone” and the yearning “Wichita Skyline,” Colvin maintained a loose, easy-going presence. Before performing a flawless “These Four Walls,” Colvin announced that she would most likely mess it up. Far from it, as the song was an early standout in the set.
She did flub a line and a chord change on the otherwise satisfying “Steady On”; however, this was one of those instances where the mistake actually enhanced the intimacy of the performance.
Other high points included the mid-set performance “Tennessee,” with its chugging, insistent guitar line and restless lyrics about leaving home. A great performance of “That Don’t Worry Me Now” followed immediately.
Of course, Colvin saved her monster hit “Sunny Came Home” for next to last. Stripped down to its core, the song achieved a menacing quality only suggested at on the studio recording, shedding new light on a true modern folk classic.
Mississippi native Garrison Starr provided a lively opening set with an eclectic mix of styles. While like Colvin, Starr performed solo with acoustic guitar, songs such as “40 Days” and “Beautiful in Los Angeles” showed off a definite rock ’n’ roll streak and a hard-edged attitude.
“The Heart Collector,” a dirgey blues-rock hybrid which, according to Starr, was written for a songwriter’s club she was briefly involved in, was perhaps best. The audience was invited to snap along, with one member of the crowd snapping on the counterpoint beat. “Yeah, Mr. Contrary, we hear you,” she quipped. “Hey, Girl,” an uplifting tune Starr dedicated to her grandmother, a two-time cancer survivor, continued her winning streak, and pumped the crowd up for Colvin’s set.