Heading to the Columbus Theatre on January 25th, at the end of a really long day, I was looking forward to some relaxing, soul-warming music. I didn’t realize just how enchanting it would be.
Appropriately introduced as the Pride of Providence by the Columbus sound engineer (Bryan Minto), Ian Fitzgerald opened with a set of mostly new tunes, off his recent album You Won’t Even Know I’m Gone. I had the pleasure of attending his record release show at this same venue in November, but experiencing Ian perform is sincerely, always a pleasure; one of which I have indulged many times in the past few months.
As he wove through his set, offering his perfectly dry banter between songs, Ian told us how the last few weeks on the road had been rather dull, and he wished he had more colorful stories to share. Unfortunately, life as a musician can’t always be Folk Fest, I guess. While I’ve been really digging his new album (particularly Monroe & Last To Know), I most appreciated Let’s Go Down to Memphis, and Melinda Down the Line, both off the 2013 No Time to Be Tender.
A couple of months ago, I saw Joan Shelley open for Patty Griffin in the main theatre at the Columbus, which seats about 800. She served up a great set, though, my patience for anything that stood between Patty Griffin and me was frankly received with antsy unappreciation.
On this night, the upstairs room, which seats 200, brought us much closer to Joan, with Ben Whiteley on upright bass, and Anna Krippenstapel on violin. This team delivered a melodic, harmonious performance, that took me on such a goosebump inducing journey.
I got hung up a few times wondering who Joan reminded me of and finally settled that she looks like a hybrid of Robin Wright and Taylor Schilling – simply beautiful. And witty. Engaging the audience between songs, amidst guitar tuning, Joan had a graceful and endearing candor, and while she promised to help us achieve supreme awkwardness (due to tuning challenges), it was not possible.
The harmony of the trio, but mostly Joan and Anna, was incredibly rich. I found myself trying to record almost every song, because I wanted to experience this again. I filled my Instagram story with clip after clip; of course, no recording could do it justice. The songs that gripped me most were Not Over By Half, and the Leonard Cohen cover of Heart With No Companion. I immediately downloaded the original from Cohen and listened as I drove home, and I was truly disappointed that it was not Joan and company coming through my speakers. It was that good.
I started the night honestly concerned I wouldn’t be able to stay awake; I ended up completely invigorated. I sat at my piano for almost 2 hours when I got home – incredibly inspired, thanks to these performers. While I do not have adequate recordings to share, what might help are the awesome pictures that photographer Liz Todd captured.
Onward with good music, 2017… it’s something we all need.
All photos by Liz Todd.