My wife, Lucy, and I saw the RT show at the Chautauqua Auditorium last night in Boulder. Thanks to my handsome Dee-Shirt (summer issue) I managed to run into fellow list-folk Steve Harris (right in front of us in line), Cathy Cumming (seated right behind us) and Dave Hughes (inside up in GA). We attended the second show. Dave Hughes (all the way in from Nebraska) also saw the first show, so hopefully he'll report on that one.
As you know, unfortunately RT is opening for Joan Armatrading for most of these shows. Richard was relegated to a mere 50 to 55 minute set, including the encore. The set was short, but very sweet, and definitely left you wanting more. Here's the setlist (from memory, so the order might not be exact):
Richard started very close to the 8:30 scheduled time (so don't be late!) and there were lots of late arriving folks, which genuinely seemed to annoy him. After the first number, "I Misunderstood", he paced around in a circle looking very peeved as a ton of folks were seated right up front. After the same occurred after the second tune, he quipped - "I should fine these people - I could use the money".
In spite of the early distractions, Richard was in fine voice (his singing seems to get stronger every year) and his playing was as astonishing as ever. During "... Vincent ..." he got some loud applause mid-song after a run of particularly dexterity. "Walking On A Wire" was a treat (I'd never seen him do this chestnut from the Linda-era live).
The funniest bit of banter occurred during the introduction to "Hamlet" (he said it was called "Hamlet", although other folks have reported it as being "Dog Eat Dog in Denmark"). He said something like - "I have been sent here by the British Cultural Attache - Mr. Rod Stewart".
The crowd was very enthusiastic and he got a strong standing ovation that prompted an encore. There were several shouts from the audience for "Beeswing", which he honored with a lovely rendition. "Oh, you want something gloomy and depressing, eh? Well, I'm your man".
Great stuff, but WAY too short. It was hard to tell what percentage of the audience was there to see RT vs. Joan Armatrading. It seemed like most of the folks in the front center were there to see RT (the fanatics like me who get their tickets the minute they go on sale), while a lot of folks on the sides and at the rear were there for JA.
RT usually sells out two shows at Chautauqua every year on his own, so this arrangement was kind of odd. I think he may have won over some new fans, however, because a lot of JA fans seemed genuinely amazed. One of my neighbors, who was there to see JA, said that he was simply astounded by his guitar playing and wanted to know more.
Unfortunately, my overwhelming impression on Armatrading was that she would be much better served by a less slick band. They were extremely tight, very competent, but in the end completely soulless. Particularly offensive to my ears was the plastic sounds of the digitally-equipped keyboard player. JA didn't play a whole lot of guitar, either. She only played electric on a handful of numbers (and when she did she played some nice, tasteful blues-based solos). More frequently, she just strummed along on acoustic with very pedestrian first position chords - G C D yawn. Also in the band was a guitarist, who was a decent player, who looked just like the guy in Right Said Fred - "I'm too sexy for my shirt". Very disconcerting.
She has a strong voice, but she only was able to rise above her surroundings (for me anyway) on one early ballad. At one point the band split (except for the keyboardist) and she was joined by two women playing cello and violin. Unfortunately, the two songs she played at this juncture were unmemorable.
Oh, and the enthusiastic women dancing by the side of the stage were, without a doubt, the worst dancers I have ever seen. Lucy and I bailed about an hour into her set. The majority of the crowd, however, loved it, so what do I know?
David A. Ewing