A Shawn Colvin Concert


I haven’t been to a gig in years. The last one was The Pierces at Manchester University Union, back in 2014, when they were touring the Creation album, and that was great, though I could have done without the standing bit. Last night, I finally went to my next one, and whilst the venues weren’t a million miles apart, the milieu couldn’t be more different.

Last night I was respectably seated at the Royal Northern College of Music to enjoy an evening of music from Shawn Colvin, for only the second time in the more than quarter-century since I was first introduced to her by a never-really-was girlfriend.

The only other Colvin gig I’d seen was at the Lowry Theatre in Salford, back in 2006 or thereabouts, and that was great. After a couple of songs to introduce her set, Shawn basically threw things open to us: the audience were calling for songs and she was playing them. I requested ‘You and the Mona Lisa’ from the A Few Small Repairs album, and we had a brief exchange at the end: I called ‘Thank you’ from my balcony seat and she replied ‘You’re welcome’ from the stage: Conversations with the Famous no 3.

I wouldn’t have minded the same sort of thing  last night (I would have called for ‘Fall of Rome’ from All Fall Down)

I’d had to get my shift slid forward three hours to attend the concert, so I was a bit worn down when I left at 6.00pm, to catch the 42 bus to the RNCM. The route, through East Didsbury, Didsbury Village, Withington and Wilmslow Road to the University is the great nostalgia bus trip, and on a warm sun teatime, it was a pleasure in itself. I stopped off for a cheap burger meal just south of the University Union and strolled up to the RNCM in good time for the support act, one Robert Vincent.

This was a guy and a guitar, a singer/songwriter and a self-advertised scouser, self-advertising himself as singing miserable songs (he wasn’t wrong: mind you, Colvin is not exactly happy-clappy). He really did nothing for me except make me consult my watch frequently, but he was still no patch on the legendary Josephine, who supported Warren Zevon at the Lowry Theatre back in 2000 and was a source of amusement (afterwards) for my not-yet wife and I: we were practically in the centre of the very front row, almost underneath her nose and thus unable to sneak out, though we nearly fled screaming when she launched into a song entitled ‘Bus of Life’, which she’d written because she just thought the ideas of buses going places and stopping and picking people up and taking them where they want to go was just so incredible, you know?

Next time I go to the RNCM, I think I’ll book myself at least a half day off: eight hours sitting down taking phonecalls was not the best preparation for an evening in those seats and before we were halfway through the set, my backside was nearly radioactive!

This time round, Colvin had decided to be in charge of her own set. As she always does when in Europe, she was touring with just an acoustic guitar and no band, though the guitar was continually going out of tune, requiring extensive re-tuning in between songs and, towards the end of the evening, during songs as well. This was a minor irritant, though with a musical ear like mine, it didn’t matter all that much.

I’m less familiar with the later songs, the post 2000 ones, than I am with those from the Nineties, but I anticipated quite a few even as I couldn’t immediately bring the title to mind. There was quite a mix, with a generous helping of those from the early days: three each from the first two albums, including my favourite, ‘Shotgun down the Avalanche’ from her debut album, Steady On (we got the title track and ‘Diamond in the Rough’ later).

I don’t remember anything from the last two albums, though we did get her version of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Tougher that the Rest’ which she recorded on Uncovered.

When the set ended, Colvin left the stage but was only gone about twenty seconds before returning for the encores we were demanding, another four songs, one of them the only request of the night. For the first of these, she attempted to drag a stool into place, to sit down for the first time, but some problems with the monitors knocked that on the head. But I was concerned at how awkwardly she was moving onstage, and how physically weak she seemed to be: Colvin is only about two months younger than me.

To be honest, once we reached the encores, I was distracted a little by the time, and having to get home by bus, but I was lucky to more or less hop onto a Piccadilly-bound bus as soon as I came out of the door, though I still had a twenty minute wait for a 203 home, and it was practically midnight before I was in.

Given that the online booking was suggesting that the tickets had almost gone, I was surprised and disappointed to see the hall no more than two-thirds full, if that. We made up for it in enthusiasm, and Colvin appreciated our coming out to see her (I called out ‘Any time!’ and got an appreciative grin in my direction). It would be nice to think I’ll get another chance, but I hope it won’t take twelve years until the next.

I’d decorate this post with ‘Fall of Rome’ but for the fact it’s never been uploaded to YouTube, so let’s close with ‘Shotgun down the Avalanche’. So good to hear this one.

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