Shawn Colvin City Winery Review

Concert Review – Shawn Colvin at City Winery, NYC

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Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Shawn Colvin’s 2020 tour was going to be a celebration of the 30th anniversary of her splendid debut record, Steady On. (Never mind it was actually released in late 1989.) But COVID put paid to that for two years: so, tongue in cheekly, Colvin’s new tour celebrates the album’s 32nd anniversary, and included her first appearance at the new, improved home of one of New York City’s best music spaces, City Winery.

As she has done in her previous City Winery visits—the last time I saw her there was in 2012 after the release of her All Fall Down album—Colvin sated the rapt audience for 100 minutes with her voice, acoustic guitar, humorous stories and, most importantly, a clutch of superb songs.

After opening with her gentle cover of “Words” by the BeeGees, Colvin performed all 10 songs from Steady On, accompanied only by her (highly underrated) acoustic guitar playing. Colvin’s deceptively simple songs incisively dissect (mostly broken) relationships with straightforward but cutting lyrics. Some of her best songs populate Steady On, like “Diamond in the Rough” and “Shotgun Down the Avalanche.” These melancholy and haunting tunes caused Colvin—whose engagingly chatty banter between songs is an essential component of her live shows—to wryly note that the upbeat sound of something like “Stranded” might fool people into thinking she’s a “happy” performer.

Her stories behind the songs make her concerts the most memorable never-aired episodes of VH1’s Behind the Music. When it came to the final Steady On song—the affecting ballad “The Dead of the Night”—she explained its long gestation, starting several years earlier when she lived in the Bay area and finishing after she moved to New York City in the mid ’80s.

Despite her succinct, subtle songwriting, Colvin is also a superb cover artist: it’s not for nothing that her third album, 1994’s aptly titled Cover Girl, features her personal takes on tunes by other artists including Bob Dylan and Talking Heads, both of which were highlights of her City Winery show. She sang wonderfully on Dylan’s “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go”—along with Tom Waits’ “Ol’ 55,” which was not on Cover Girl—and her final encore was her emotionally plaintive version of the Heads’ “This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody).” When she sang “Home, is where I want to be/But I guess I’m already there,” the warmth of the sentiment, coming out of the pandemic, was felt by the entire audience.

Shawn Colvin
April 25-26, 2022
City Winery, New York City

May 13-14, 2022
SPACE, Evanston, Illinois