Saturday, March 1, 2008

Concert Report: Richard Shindell @ Tupelo Music Hall

Patti and I were back at Tupelo Music Hall last night, this time for the sold out Richard Shindell show. As I mentioned in my review of the recent Susan Werner show, Richard is unsurpassed in the art of telling stories via his songwriting.

Another thing that shines in Richard's songwriting is his ability to turn a phrase in a way that catches me in wonder and amazement. One example from a song last night is the first two lines of the third verse of Kenworth of My Dreams, a song about selling it all to go on the road as a trucker:

A lot of folks just shook their heads
Convinced that I’d lost mine
They said living in a God-damned truck
Is just a waste of time
That to spend your life behind the wheel
Ain’t as great as it might seem
I just thanked them all and left one night
In the Kenworth of my dreams

I love the cleverness of those first two lines. Another snippet that always gets me like that are the lines from There Goes Mavis that juxtapose two colors:

Then out of the blue
There’s an orange canary
On our driftwood flagpole
Shovels down Boys! — step away

This song, by the way, is about a canary set free by her little girl owner ("Now’s your big chance, Fly away!"). But those two lines, with the clever use of "out of the blue" followed by the contrasting orange, are just brilliant.

Richard shook things up a little last night by opening with Transit, which is more typically his set closer. His voice was a little off, but we found out later he is just getting over a cold and he felt so lousy earlier in the day that he thought he was going to have to cancel the gig. Thankfully the show went on, and by the third song or so his voice was full strength and he admitted that he was feeling much better.

Richard told an amusing story about Transit which I hadn't heard before. The central figure in Transit is Sister Maria from St. Agnes’s Church in Paterson , NJ. Now, this is all made up - when writing the song he needed a church, and St. Agnes's just popped into his mind. And he needed a nun, so he pulled Sister Maria's name out of his imagination. Except, as it turns out, there really is a St. Agnes's Church in Paterson, NJ. And even better, there really is a Sister Maria at St. Agnes's. And even better, he recently received a letter from none other than Sister Maria which said, in its entirety:

Dear Richard,
Please drive safely.
          Sister Maria

Priceless! Go read the lyrics and you'll understand.

We were treated to two new songs which are likely candidates for his next album. "Clara" is an upbeat and humorously amusing ditty about a mule, and "Balloon Man" is about a local character in his adopted hometown, Buenos Aires. Neither were instant killer Shindell songs to me, but who knows what I'll think after hearing them more.

The setlist (all songs written by Richard unless noted in parentheses):

Kenworth of My Dreams
Northbound 35 (Jeffrey Foucault)
Balloon Man
Waist Deep in the Big Muddy (Pete Seeger's allegorical anti-war song)
Cold Missouri Waters (James Keelaghan)
Sitting on Top of the World (Traditional)
Reunion Hill
Hazel's House
Are You Happy Now?
So Says the Whippoorwill
There Goes Mavis
Encore: On A Sea Of Fleur De Lis

The opener was Meg Hutchinson.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the concert report. Especially liked the note on Transit, being one of my favorite Shindell songs. Really hope he makes it to the west coast one of these days. Ken