By Alex Teitz
Tracy Chapman, back after an extended absence with the release of Telling Stories, is on the road promoting the new CD. Chapman has a skilled band and a slick stage setup which should be a sign of great things. The night FEMMUSIC saw her it was not.
The Magness arena is a hockey rink transformed. The stadium style seating around and a general admission mass below proved tough to get a focus on. In addition the Arena has baffles in unusual places creating a secondary echo to every note played, and Chapman played many.
Chapman took to the stage and poured through a set for over an hour forty-five. The set included classics like “Fast Car”, ”Save My Soul” and “Talking About a Revolution.” Most of the set was filled with new songs including “The Only One” , and “It’s OK” about the friend always in trouble.
Chapman herself was plagued with guitar problems a little over halfway through. She switched through three or four guitars and as many cables in that time. At one point a tech was onstage checking the guitar itself. Although Chapman tried to hide it, she was disturbed by these technical problems.
Tracy Chapman is a singer-songwriter used to intimate spaces. Her style and energy are not known for rip-roaring rock shows and the crowd was expecting more. During Chapman’s introduction to “Telling Stories” in which she spoke about reading biographies on Mohamed Ali and George Washington, she was continually goaded by the audience to play. She seemed surprised at this interruption in her train of thought.
Chapman was backed up by a talented band. Steve Hunter on guitar and mandolin, Paul Bushnell on bass and background vocals, Jeff Young on keyboard, and Denny Fondheizer on drums were intuitive and up to speed with Chapman the entire night. They punctuated the songs with strong solos and kept the set tightly knit.
Lastly, Tracy Chapman is a powerful singer-songwriter. Her songs have a heart and soul and speak to the urban voice. She is passionate and deserves better than a hockey arena. Catch Chapman on this tour in the intimate spaces it visits.
For more information on Tracy Chapman’s new CD Telling Stories visit Elektra Records at http://www.elektrarecords.com