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POP MUSIC REVIEW

Colvin's Different Expressions Prove Stylish Treat

September 10, 1997|RICH KANE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO — Though she popped up at stops in other cities, it's too bad Shawn Colvin wasn't in the Lilith Fair lineup when the all-women music festival rolled into Irvine Meadows in July.

Judging by her often spirited show before a sold-out crowd at the Coach House on Monday night, Colvin would certainly have pumped much-needed oxygen into one of that tour's weaker dates.

But maybe we were better off without her then anyway, because at the Coach House, Colvin was able to deliver a full set of her mostly enjoyable folk-pop, as opposed to the throw-'em-on, start-the-stopwatch, yank-'em-off environment usually encountered at those multi-act festivals.

This meant that Colvin could show off her stylistic range, to a worshipful crowd that was there to hear more than just "Sunny Came Home," her arson-fantasy Top 10 hit that finally broke her big this summer and vaporized the "underground folk" label she'd been branded with since her 1989 debut.

On Monday, we got Sensitive Folkie Shawn, Rock 'n' Roll Shawn and Cover Girl Shawn. But then we also got Lounge Lady Shawn. Colvin made an unfortunate attempt at "Viva Las Vegas," which she played straight, as if she were singing about war, famine or something equally weighty.

It came off sounding forced, and Colvin's serious demeanor pushed the moment into campy shtick terrain. Predictably, she threw in some quickie Elvis impressions near the tune's end, but by then it was too late for any levity.

*

That was the show's weakest link, though. Colvin was far more adept at throwing down her extremely catchy melodies to her not-exactly-cheery lyrics, "Sunny" being only the most obvious example.

It was almost too easy to get caught up in the musical moments of songs such as "Get Out of This House" without picking up on the fact that it's about the rather nasty ending of her marriage, and equally simple to overlook the desperation of tracks such as "I Want It Back" and "Suicide Alley" from last year's "A Few Small Repairs."

But for all the onstage venting, Colvin also threw in some genuinely sweet moments, as was the case with "Window to the World," one of the best songs from her 1994 "Cover Girl" album. And, as it should be, "Polaroids" was lovingly delivered and untampered with, the exact opposite of "Steady On," which was radically molded into something too rollicking and earthy to fit her spare, two-man backing band.

Local fave Kerry Getz was impressive with her opening set, successfully fighting off not only the stifling heat ("Welcome to the Coach House Health Club & Sauna!" she hollered early on) but the din of an overly chatty, restless crowd.

Her acoustic picking and singing ranked far above your average coffeehouse troubadour, especially the tender "Beautiful to You."

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