Redemption songs go down a storm

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Live review: Mary Chapin Carpenter and Shawn Colvin at the Sage Gateshead

It might have been the first night of their first tour together, but 30 years of friendship and musical collaboration between Mary Chapin Carpenter and Shawn Colvin ensured a pitch-perfect performance at the Sage Gateshead on Monday.

“We’re here to play and sing,” announced Colvin at the start of the show, and that is exactly what they did.

Apart from their self-deprecating banter about middle age, memory loss and failing eyesight, though, their performance seemed to be as much about catharsis as entertainment.

Carpenter drew several songs from her latest album Ashes and Roses, which, she warned us, deals with “darker, tougher things”, including her father’s death and her own divorce and illness.

With characteristic integrity, she delivered Chasing What’s Already Gone and What to Keep And What to Throw Away to a hushed and spellbound audience, before moving onto the sunnier side of the album with Don’t Need Much to Be Happy.

Punctuating these autobiographical reflections were Colvin and Carpenter’s jaw-droppingly beautiful cover versions of Paul Simon’s The Only Living Boy in New York, Donovan’s Catch the Wind and The Beatles’ I’ll Be Back, as well as some of Colvin’s own classics such as Shotgun Down the Avalanche, All Fall Down and Trouble.

Other highlights included the pair’s interpretations of Crowded House’s Four Seasons in One Day, Merle Haggard’s That’s The Way Love Goes and Steve Earle’s Someday.

The tour continued this week with performances in Edinburgh, Liverpool and Derby.

Carpenter tweeted last night that “all woes disappear when standing on this amazing stage”. Hopefully, her UK tour will have her singing Down at the Twist and Shout by the time she reaches Cambridge on Tuesday next week.