Concert Review: Mary Chapin Carpenter with Loudon Wainwright III at Wolf Trap

Mary Chapin Carpenter with Loudon Wainwright III. Photography courtesy of Wolf Trap.

It is very easy to see why Mary Chapin Carpenter is a five time Grammy Award winning artist. With a rich alto sound and fantastic musicianship, Carpenter and her five piece band held the audience at Wolf Trap in the palm of their hands.

Such songs as “Chasing” and “Passionate Kisses” were just two of the highlights of the concert. In the song “Halley Came to Jackson” Carpenter sings about an encounter with Halley’s Comet. The song was dedicated to Eudora Welty. This song shows off a quieter side to Carpenter’s singing style. I particularly enjoyed a song that Carpenter never recorded but nonetheless is a neat song. It is called “Girls with Guitars” and was recorded by Wynonna.  Carpenter started using the song in her concert because over the years she has gotten some of the most ridiculous questions from her fans. Things like “Do you actually play those guitars or are they just props?”  I wonder how she answered that one. Then we had a very soulful piano/vocal only rendition of a beautiful song called “Jericho,” which points out that whether Carpenter is singing with a band or accompanied by a single instrument her golden pristine voice is a treasure.

…the way a concert should be presented, two great acts and a fabulous concert venue.

I usually have a problem with most opening acts because they are generally young talent trying to cut their teeth in the business, and it is always a crap shoot as to what the result will be. In this case the opening act was no opening act but was legendary Grammy Award winning folk singer Loudon Wainwright III. Opening with a song called “I Want A Double Life,” Wainwright’s compositions are funny and touching. A stand out song for me is one that he wrote for his son’s wedding. Some of you might know that Loudon’s son is singer/composer Rufus Wainwright. The song was called “The Idea of Us” and, while it’s intended as a wedding song, it makes a statement about how proud Wainwright is to be living in NYC after they made gay marriage legal. He also read excerpts from his Dad’s life magazine columns and performed songs from his new CD called Older than My Old Man Now, which Wainwright pointed out was not on sale at the gift shop. The song called “My Meds” that is about all the medicines you have to take as you get older was simply hysterical. Sometimes you don’t need much to be brilliant. Wainwright takes to the stage with just a guitar and a whole lot of great material. In this case, less is more.

All in all the pairing of Mary Chapin Carpenter and Loudon Wainwright III made for a perfect summer evening at Wolf Trap. It was not too hot climate wise but there was plenty of sizzle onstage. This is the way a concert should be presented, two great acts and a fabulous concert venue.

Running Time: Two Hours and 50 minutes with a 15 minute intermission

Mary Chapin Carpenter with Loudon Wainwright III was a one night only event at The Filene Center at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts on August 18th, 2012

For a list of remaining summer events at Wolf Trap click here.