Australia’s Emily Barker opened the evening. Barker, who entered the music realm after connecting with guitarist Rob Jackson in the UK in 2002, has been touring internationally on her latest solo record Sweet Kind of Blue (2017). The Americana singer/songwriter, who is fresh off of her 2017 Glastonbury performance, played a stripped-down solo set at Chautauqua, jumping between the piano onstage and her guitar and harmonica. While some artists may have a hard time keeping a crowd’s interest without a backing band, Barker sure isn’t one of them. Her voice is the true instrument of interest in her music, and she definitely proved that at this performance. There wasn’t a sound outside of her vocals throughout the entire auditorium when she sang her tune “Precious Memories” entirely acapella with a few finger snaps thrown in for good measure. With the crowd’s full attention, Barker really showcased the raw, jazzy vibrato sound of her vocals, shortly thereafter ending her 30-minute set with the swampy harmonica and delta vibes of her newer single “Sunrise.”
Country darling Mary Chapin Carpenter entered next, with a four-piece band backing her for a set of tunes spread across her 30-year catalogue. Her Chautauqua show was her second in Colorado for the week, and in support of her 2016 release The Things That We Are Made Of, which is her 14th record release. The crowd was especially taken with her newer, emotive track “Livingston,” which Carpenter shared was inspired by a road trip she took with friends to “say farewell to a friend.”
The four-time Grammy winner played plenty of her classics as well. The crowd cheered for her “Passionate Kisses” cover, which harkens back to her 1992 record Come On Come On and was originally written by Lucinda Williams (who ironically plays Chautauqua next week).
“I think that one is a perfect example of songcraft, whether stripped down and acoustic or with a full band! It speaks to the most human desire to love and be loved, which we all deserve.” she remarked afterward, to a vibrant applause.
Carpenter made several reflections on her career throughout the night, saying at one point, “You know a lot of us will say we’re just happy to be anywhere, but I’m especially happy to be here.” And with “here” being a sold-out 1500-capacity auditorium nestled in Boulder’s Foothills, one thing’s clear: Carpenter has strongly accomplished what many artists only dream to do- she’s spent a 30-year music career establishing lifelong fans.
“This next one’s old,” she smiled toward the end of her set, “But aren’t they all? This one’s from the last century.” The crowd cheered.
Though her tunes may be dated in years, they’re established country classics; timeless, though the performer and her loyal fans have aged since her first release.
Carpenter’s next show is in Kansas City tonight with Sarah Jarosz, but Barker will rejoin Carpenter in Iowa this weekend for another leg of this tour. Keep up with Carpenter here and with Barker on her website.
All photos per the author. All videos and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.