On Nov. 10 and 11, singer-songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter performed at the historic Stanley Hotel for the second year in a row, drawing her fall tour to a close in Scottsdale, Arizona on Sunday.
Carpenter played the same set both nights, opening with Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin,’” transitioning straight into her own 1994 call-to-action, “Stones in the Road.” Carpenter, never shy about vocalizing her political beliefs, later asserted, “It’s always a good night for a protest song.”
That wasn’t Carpenter’s only “one-two punch” of the night, however. Next, she played another 1994 hit, “Shut Up and Kiss Me,” immediately followed by her Grammy winning Lucinda Williams cover, “Passionate Kisses.” These couplings of kindred songs, including a later pairing of 1992’s “I Feel Lucky” and “I Take My Chances,” structured the show as a sort of a feel-good retrospective, cataloging the passage of time.
After noting that this year marked the 25th anniversary of her critically acclaimed album “Come On, Come On,” and the 30th anniversary of her debut album “Hometown Girl,” Carpenter stated, “People say, ‘We’re so happy to be here!’ and I feel, ‘We’re just so happy to be anywhere!’” then aptly played her 2016 song “The Middle Ages.”
Carpenter and her self-labeled “badass little band” seamlessly switched between her rocking, lively tunes and her folky, more evocative ones. They moved from the pacifying song “Halley Came to Jackson” into the rollicking Dire Straits cover “The Bug,” featuring an interlude of a call-and-response between her guitarist, pianist and killer drum solo, showcasing their dexterity and superlative talent.
The show rides on this boost spirit, closing with the triumphant and encouraging “The Hard Way” with an encore performance of her top two hits, the feminist anthem “He Thinks He’ll Keep Her” and the toe-tapping “Down At the Twist and Shout.”
Mary Chapin Carpenter continuously proves her excellence as a performer and songwriter, whether she’s backed by a full band or solo acoustic, exemplifying just how valuable live music, community and connection are. In her own words, “there will never be a substitute for being here, together.”