Shawn Colvin and Steve Earle

The Vogue Theatre, Vancouver BC, August 20

Shawn Colvin and Steve EarleThe Vogue Theatre, Vancouver BC, August 20
Photo: Sharon Steele
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Vancouver concertgoers got a hit of real folk music Saturday night (August 20), as seasoned performers Shawn Colvin and Steve Earle delivered a bare bones duet set between the modest walls of the Vogue Theatre. It was fitting that the two pros were unaccompanied by a backup band or anything flashy, and Earle's iconic reputation provided all the hype needed in the lead-up to the show.
 
At the beginning of the night, opener and Victoria's own Jesse Roper set the tone for an acoustic evening, treating the audience to textured guitar playing and barefoot serenades.
 
So by the time Colvin and Earle took the stage, they wasted no time sliding into a stripped down rendition of the Everly Brothers' classic "Wake Up Little Susie" — the old friends' harmonizing showing the audience why they finally decided to make an album together after years of admiring each other's work.
 
Colvin & Earle was released earlier this year, boasting original songs like "Come What May" and "You're Right, I'm Wrong" that hint at each respective artist's talents, especially when brought to life on stage. The sparse stage set-up forced concertgoers to focus on the songwriters' lyrics, which gently weave Colvin and Earle's years of musical and life experience together.
 
It wasn't all new material at last night's show, though. The duo's mutual love and respect for peer Emmylou Harris is no secret — they've both individually incorporated her music in their careers — and they even honoured her with a perfectly harmonious cover of "Raise the Dead."
 
Earle later provided a dramatic prelude to his classic "Someday," telling the audience about his road to success with Guitar Town, pairing the introductory narration with guitar picking. He also proved that his well-known sense of humour and harmonica playing hasn't deteriorated over the years, showing both off to make for a particularly fun portion of the evening.
 
Earle's "Thinkin' Bout Burning the Walmart Down" was also charming, though it found him taking the backseat to Colvin's vocals. Luckily Earle took over with upbeat Irish love song "Galway Girl," a beloved fan favourite that the audience heartily sang along to.
 
Colvin, meanwhile, is perhaps best known for her 1997 hit and Grammy-winning song "Sunny Came Home," a dreamy country gem that transferred well into an acoustic solo performance and was immediately recognizable to everyone in attendance by the first bar of the chorus. By Colvin's own unapologetic admission she writes "depressing breakup songs," and while the melancholic mood of the music bled into her stage presence a bit, Earle's comic relief restored a sense of balance to the set.
 
The duo again reiterated their love for classics by covering the Rolling Stones' "Ruby Tuesday" and the Nashville Teens' "Tobacco Road," taking concertgoers on a jukebox tour throughout the evening, eventually closing out the run of covers with a stripped down take on the Beatles' "Baby's in Black" before giving way to two final respective Colvin and Earle originals.
 
An intimate and simple evening, the performers did very little to stun the audience but their talent was effortless and impressive nonetheless. Best known for their skills as singer-songwriters, their choice to incorporate numerous covers into the setlist was a nice surprise. Concerned more with harmonizing than showmanship, the pair ultimately put on a folk performance that effectively highlighted the current collaborative period in each of their careers.
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