Review: Mary Chapin Carpenter at Red Butte Garden

On July 6, 2022 Red Butte Garden Amphitheatre felt like a concert hall, despite the low back chairs and blankets on the lawn. The crowd welcomed opener John Craigie with rapt attention, not the usual chatty picnic atmosphere that often greets the opening act. Craigie captivated the near-capacity crowd with self-effacing humor and quirky, relevant storytelling. Channeling the late great John Prine, who we lost during the pandemic, Craigie delivered seven well-crafted songs like “Let’s Talk This Over, When We’re Sober (and not in Quarantine)” and “I Am California.” He ended his set with “I Wrote Mr. Tambourine Man.” The goal of any opener is to focus the crowd’s attention as they find their way to their seats. Craigie did that and more. His unassuming wit and charm earned him a garden of new fans in the process.  

Perfect weather and a full crowd of adoring fans greeted Mary Chapin Carpenter and her band as she launched into “Farther Along and Further In.” Carpenter, a five-time Grammy Award winner, crafted a long setlist with emotionally intelligent country music, sometimes boisterous and fun and other times introspective and socially-conscious. Her music is a great blend of smart and sassy. She definitely delivered both. 

Carpenter masterfully converted the amphitheatre space into a dance hall with her hits “Passionate Kisses,” “I Feel Lucky” and “Shut Up and Kiss Me” then brought it back to a natural listening room for her more introspective songs like “Stones in the Road,” “Halley Came to Jackson” and “The Hard Way.”  

For her encore she played her country hits “He Thinks He’ll Keep Her” and “Down at the Twist and Shout.” For a midweek show, the crowd never thinned. She enraptured us with her 17-song performance with a mix of upbeat country and beautifully crafted country/folk ballads.

Carpenter shared words of wisdom from southern writer Eudora Welty that continue to inspire her: “All serious daring starts from within.”  Indeed, Carpenter’s innovative songwriting personifies “daring” by blending a country beat with introspective and articulate folk lyrics. Isolated during the pandemic, she live-streamed a YouTube series, “Songs from Home” singing into her phone taped to a picture frame in her kitchen. She also recorded a “live” album One Lonely Night from an empty concert venue at the legendary Wolf Trap’s Filene Center near her home in Virginia.  

Carpenter and her talented band brought that daring blend of “Americana” to the Red Butte Garden Amphitheatre stage for us to enjoy in a majestic setting. Shout out to the Red Butte Garden sound crew who did a fabulous job, as always.

John Nelson
John Nelson
John Nelson covers the local music scene for Salt Lake magazine. He is a 20-year veteran of Uncle Sam’s Flying Circus with a lifelong addiction to American roots music, live music venues, craft beer and baseball.

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