concert reviews

Edwin McCain at the Barns of Wolf Trap, Vienna, VA, Wednesday 9 January 2008

On Wednesday night at the Barns at Wolf Trap, Edwin McCain's comment, "I'd like to thank everyone who uses this next song at their weddings," clarified nothing. The singer-songwriter's two best-known songs both fit in that category: "I Could Not Ask for More" soundtracked the 1999 film "Message in a Bottle," while his ubiquitous "I'll Be" was voted "Best Wedding Song" by Dr. Phil's viewers in 2005. (At Wednesday's show, he was referring to the former song.)

Yet McCain's greatest weakness is not that he's a one-trick wedding balladeer. Rather, it's the disparity between his lyrics and his onstage persona: McCain opened his show with a story about being stranded in Woodstock, being rescued by the Enterprise rental car outfit and driving past a strip club that was bustling early in the morning. His lively introduction had the audience in stitches, but it led to a song with a chorus that began, "It's a beautiful life" -- and had no trace of the bizarre situation that inspired the tune.

Furthermore, any potential irony or sarcasm was lost beneath McCain's booming, earnest voice, which showed no hint of restraint during his 90-minute set. That passionate delivery worked on "I'll Be," since its lyrics call for such confidence, but the rest of the show felt over-sung. For his encore, though, McCain toned down his energy for a solo performance of "Prayer to St. Peter." Its mellower, heartfelt tone captured perfectly his dedication of the song to the soldiers.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post, 11 January 2008; Page C06
.: Selected discography: Lost in America (Edwin McCain, 2006); Scream & Whisper (Edwin McCain, 2004); The Austin Sessions (Edwin McCain, 2003); Far From Over (Edwin McCain, 2001); Messenger (Edwin McCain, 1999); Misguided Roses (Edwin McCain, 1997); Honor Among Thieves (Edwin McCain, 1995).