LIVE: Shawn Colvin & Loudon Wainwright III @ the Colonial Theatre, 3/11/11

Loudon Wainwright III opened the show with the old W.C. Handy classic “Didn’t He Ramble,” and the audience had every reason to believe that it might be a prophecy of the evening to come. After all, both Wainwright and headliner Shawn Colvin have well-deserved reputations for telling rambling, non-sequitir laced, way-off-on-a-tangent tales between tunes.

And while those stories are sometimes charming, both singer-songwriters have such a rich and deep catalog of A-list songs, it often seems shameful to eat up stage time with off-the-cuff monologues instead of getting right to the heart of the matter – the music.

Fortunately, the chit-chat was kept to a minimum – except for the guy in the crowd who mistakenly believed that the price of his ticket also allowed him to engage Loudon in conversation in the middle of the show. No problem, Loudon cut him off nicely.

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Musically, Wainwright offered his usual mix of silly songs (the pharmaceutical fantasia “My Meds” and “Unfriendly Skies,” about an airline that smashed his guitar), heartwrenching songs (“Red Guitar” at the grand piano) and songs that were both (“Another Song in C”). He played a little banjo on “High, Wide and Handsome” and got topical with “The Krugman Blues.”

Mostly, of course, he sang about himself and his family, singing “If families didn’t break apart, I suppose there’d be no need for art.” He sang about grandfatherhood from both sides – first with “Half Fist” about his grandfather and later with a new song about becoming a grandfather himself for the first time.

The highlights, though, were a pair of duets with Shawn Colvin – especially Richard Thompson’s “A Heart Needs a Home.” Wainwright returned the favor during Colvin’s headlining set, joining her for the twang-filled country duet on “Let It Slide” and “Ready or Not (So Ripe).”

Like Loudon, Colvin opened her show with a cover – the Bee Gees’ “Words” – and it was as sweet as could be. She dropped a few other covers into her set as well, culling nuggets from the songbags of Tom Waits, Jimmy Webb and most surprisingly Gnarls Barkley with a smashing encore of “Crazy.”

Her own songs sparkled just as brightly, especially the mid-set pairing of “Polaroids” and “Shotgun Down the Avalanche,” which were the highlights of her performance.

Most interestingly, neither Wainwright nor Colvin played their biggest hits, “Dead Skunk” and “Sunny Came Home,” respectively.

They didn’t need to.

Michael Eck’s review @ The Times Union

Words (Bee Gees)
Another Long One
These Four Walls
Shotgun Down the Avalanche
Let It Slide (with Loudon Wainwright III)
Ready or Not (So Ripe) (with Loudon Wainwright III)
Wichita Skyline
Summer Dress
Hold On (Tom Waits)
Ricochet in Time
Round of Blues
If I Were Brave
Crazy (Gnarls Barkley)
If These Walls Could Speak (Jimmy Webb)

Didn’t He Ramble
Dead Man
A Guilty Conscience and a Broken Heart
Half Fist
Being a Dad
The Krugman Blues
My Meds
Red Guitar
Another Song in C
You Never Phone (with Shawn Colvin)
A Heart Needs a Home (with Shawn Colvin) (Richard Thompson)
High, Wide and Handsome
Unfriendly Skies

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