The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Country-folk legends reminisce through music at KCPA

Photo courtesy of of Krannert Center for Performing Arts
Country-folk artists Mary Chapin Carpenter and Shawn Colvin visited the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts on Thursday.

Critically acclaimed veterans of the country-folk music scene Mary Chapin Carpenter and Shawn Colvin filled the main floor of the Foellinger Great Hall at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts for an intimate performance of original songs, covers and stories from their careers. 

“It’s a cold and stormy night, but it’s so nice to be in this beautiful, beautiful theater,” Carpenter said when first addressing Thursday night’s crowd.

Carpenter and Colvin, respective winners of five and three Grammy Awards as well as multiple other honors of the music world, were originally scheduled to play at the KCPA last October. According to the KCPA’s website, the performance was postponed to this January due to unforeseen circumstances and still managed to pull a sizable crowd.

The performance kicked off as Carpenter and Colvin entered to a warm round of applause and quickly broke into their first song, a duet of “The End of Innocence” by Don Henley that gave the audience its first dose of the harmonies to come throughout the night. 

The performers took that momentum straight into their next song, another duet, this time “Try and Catch the Wind,” an oft-covered folk classic by Scottish folk artist Donovan. 

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After another enthusiastic reception, Carpenter and Colvin put down their guitars and took some time to talk to the audience, standing in front of their minimalist set of a couple of guitar stands, two microphones and two blue-cushioned chairs behind them as the whole stage basked in soft pink lighting. 

The two began to share about their friendship — one that’s been ongoing for 35 years — and some of their musical ethos, namely their unofficial motto: “Sad songs make us happy.”

Carpenter even performed a new song much to the excitement of her longtime fans, telling the crowd she was getting there on a new record, with the song “Girl and Her Dog” being the most recent she had finished.

The rest of the performance saw Carpenter and Colvin sharing the spotlight, providing harmonies or taking a backseat altogether for the other to sing a solo or share a story from their career. 

Performances of Colvin’s “Sunny Came Home,” Carpenter’s “This Shirt” and “Passionate Kisses” as well as covers of Steve Earle’s “Someday” and — for those patient enough to stick around for the encore — “I Want It That Way” by the Backstreet Boys excited the crowd. 

Outside of the musical performances, fans and spectators were privy to a more personal side of these artists, hearing inside stories that provided a look into their creative processes. 

Colvin shared a story about how she used a technique she dubbed “singing in tongues” to piece together the song “That Don’t Worry Me Now.”

“It’s like scat singing, but worse,” she joked. “You start to be told what you’re writing about.” 

Colvin said the technique allows her to “enter her subconscious through a side door” to find her inspiration, which was a PBS special on Martin Luther King Jr. in this case. 

The two shared about their previous collaborations on projects like the music video for Carpenter’s “I Feel Lucky” and Colvin’s “One Cool Remove” and went through a laundry list of music icons they had worked with over the years such as John Levanthal, Steve Earle and Buddy Miller.

“It was a family outing for us,” said Jamie Patton, an audience member. “We loved the repartee between them.”

The two had undeniable chemistry on stage, teasing one another like a sort of country-folk version of Steve Martin and Martin Short. It gave the impression one was watching two old friends catching up more so than two professional musicians performing.

Messages about found family, enjoying the little things in life and imbuing wisdom onto the next generation permeated throughout the performance as the two artists happily looked back on their long, successful and storied careers sharing the music they dedicated their life to.

“Those growing older can be pushed to the side or marginalized,” Carpenter said in a moment of sincerity with the crowd. “But we have so much to give as we get older.”


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