concert reviews

Mary Chapin Carpenter at Wolf Trap, Vienna, VA, Thursday 9 June 2005

Despite its size, Wolf Trap always feels like a more intimate venue because of the typical audience's enthusiasm and attentiveness. On Thursday night, Mary Chapin Carpenter fueled that energy with a lively performance, and the crowd responded by clapping along to the sassy "Shut Up and Kiss Me" and dancing during "Down at the Twist and Shout." The rowdiness died down during the quieter numbers, and the crowd's respectful silence reinforced Carpenter's strength as a performer.

Carpenter's jovial stage presence kept that attention even between songs. She joked that she needed to rewrite her old hit "I Feel Lucky" to downgrade the unrequited crushes she had on other country singers before her marriage (those revised lyrics: "Dwight Yoakam's in the corner, trying to catch my eye / Lyle Lovett's right beside me with his hand upon my thigh / My husband's got a nail gun and he's coming after you!").

Carpenter was even lighthearted about her songs' often-melancholy themes. She introduced "What Would You Say to Me?" as "another song about rejection, alienation and depression," and then laughed, exclaiming, "At least this one has a perky melody!"

It was those upbeat melodies that kept Carpenter's 90-minute set rolling along. Her five-piece backing band sustained the vigor, adding mandolins, guitars and a piano to her songs to expand her sound, filling the cavernous space but creating the ambiance of a small, open-air coffee shop.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post, 11 June 2005
.: Selected discography: Between Here and Gone (Mary Chapin Carpenter, 2004); A Place in the World (Mary Chapin Carpenter, 1996); Stones in the Road (Mary Chapin Carpenter, 1994); Come On Come On (Mary Chapin Carpenter, 1992); Shooting Straight in the Dark (Mary Chapin Carpenter, 1990); State of the Heart (Mary Chapin Carpenter, 1989); Hometown Girl (Mary Chapin Carpenter, 1987); One Moment More (Mindy Smith, 2004).