Shawn Colvin (very) live

I attended the first two nights of the great Shawn Colvin at the Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant in downtown Minneapolis on Thursday and Friday. I’ll be back when she winds up her three-night run tonight. Having taken five or six months off from performing live, Shawn is at the top of her form. She is relaxed, engaging, warm, funny, emotional and utterly riveting. The layoff seems to have refreshed her.

On the first two nights there has been little overlap in her set lists. One common denominator has been Tom Waits’s ballad “Hold On,” a breakup song that gives the outline of a compelling short story. She recorded it for her new collection of cover songs, Uncovered. As she points out with respect to her own writing, breakup songs are her specialty. This one obviously suits her. The chorus pierced me to the soul (both nights).

Last night a gentleman sitting in front of her up against the stage quietly asked her to perform another cover song, the knockout “Twilight” (by Robbie Robertson). She recorded a live version for her first album of covers, Cover Girl, more than 20 years ago. She demurred, saying she hadn’t played it in a long time, then came out and made it her first encore. You could hear a pin drop during this one. The Band never recorded a version of the song that touches Shawn’s. Accompanying herself alone on guitar, she exposes the heart of this beautiful song.

Star Tribune music critic Jon Bream attended Thursday night’s show. Jon sees so many shows in a year that I occasionally think his reviews are jaded, but he was affected as I was by Shawn on Thursday night. His observant review is “Humor, emotion fill Shawn Colvin’s splendid concert at the Dakota.”