Sara Evans is an incredible vocalist. That at least was evident when she took the stage August 29 at the South Shore Music Circus in Cohasset, MA. Evans turned in one brilliant performance after another, wrapping her comforting twang around a majority of her most recognizable singles.
She opened the show with “Born To Fly” before treating the audience to a brisk set of her career during the new millennium. This fantastic overview ranged from “Perfect” and “I Keep Looking” to “Real Fine Place To Start” and “As If” with ease. She loaded the set with uptempo tunes, bringing out lesser faire like “Coalmine” and enjoying the audience’s eruption during “Suds In The Bucket,” which followed a brief synopsis of her upbringing on the Missouri farm; a life with three older brothers and four younger sisters.
In the beginning Evans stuck with the music, pausing after a generous strand of songs before engaging the audience. While I normally enjoy banter, Evans has a way of coming off slightly disingenuous, like a performer fulfilling a job, and not a singer giving a whole-hearted performance. This is just Evans’ way; a fact that hasn’t changed in the three years since I last saw her live (and wrote a concert review of her show).
She was quick to mention that 2011 performance, a herculean feat where she arrived late to the venue (Cape Cod Melody Tent) via private jet, with her tardiness blamed on a combination of her kids and the Birmingham, Alabama airport she was flying out of. Her circumstances this time weren’t much better – sick kids she claimed she had to spank – but she was able to get to the venue on time, even if she fell asleep (or so she alleged) during hair and makeup.
An attempt to joke about the revolving circular stage (which the South Shore Music Circus and sister venue Cape Cod Melody Tent are known for) fell flat, but she was able to creep everyone out with a story about lice going around at her daughter’s school. Evans is a mother after all, with tweens and teens, so sharing stories of that world isn’t necessarily unwelcomed.
And for all her banter (she didn’t even know how to pronounce the town she was performing in, which was written out taped to the stage for her), she actually focused heavily on the music. Evans brought the audience back a few years and reflected on her marriage before launching into “A Little Bit Stronger,” mentioning how grateful she was to us fans for helping make it one of her biggest hits. She also graced us with her cover of Rod Stewart’s “My Heart Can’t Tell You No,” which made me happy, as I never expected her to sing it. The same went for “Backseat of a Greyhound Bus,” which came early on. I would’ve figured Evans would’ve forgotten all about that song by now.
Those who saw my review of Slow Me Down this past March (and engaged in a healthy debate on Engine 145), would most likely be surprised I would even attend an Evans concert. Despite what I said, out of anger toward her musical direction, I do love her and have been a fan ever since seeing the “Three Chords and the Truth” video on CMT seventeen years ago. She graced us with three new cuts from her latest project; her Isaac Slade assisted duet “Can’t Stop Loving You” (a duet with her phenomenal backup singer/guitarist), the title track, and brand new single “Put My Heart Down.” I actually do like the new single, and it is one of the more memorable tracks on the new project. All were sung well during the show, too.
But the singular highlight of the evening was her brilliant reading of “I Could Not Ask For More,” which exuded a passion unlike anything she sung all night. Evans took the track to new heights, allowing her voice to effortlessly soar into the heavens. I always loved the studio version, but hearing her sing it live brought the song to whole other place. I’ll likely never hear the song the same way again. If you’ve yet to see Evans live, which is an experience awaiting any fan of her music, she’s even more incredible than on record.
The only truly puzzling part of the evening was her encore, in which she covered three mainstream hits from the past few years. I understand desiring to do cover songs, and Evans is known for them, but in place of signature hits like “No Place That Far,” (which she didn’t sing in 2011 either). At least they were very good, even if they weren’t a single bit country. She began with Bruno Mars’ “If I Was Your Man,” switched to “If You Were My Man,” followed with Pink and Nate Ruess’ “Just Give Me A Reason” and ended with “Everybody Talks” by Neon Trees. I wonder, though, why she didn’t include Gavin DeGraw’s “Not Over You,” the only pop cover song she’s actually recorded (it’s on Slow Me Down). Sara Evans will always be an artist that boggles the mind.
The other draw for me was opening act Kiley Evans (no relation) a local country/pop singer-songwriter from Marshfield, MA that I met through the radio station I work at. Evans, who moved to Nashville last October, is incredibly talented and put on a comforting yet short set that perfectly endeared her to the audience.
While she has a full-length CD, Evans focused exclusively on her new EP Mix ‘n’ Match, which includes five songs she’s worked on since moving to Music City. She opened with “Summer Stupid” and ran through “Running With Scissors.” She told the audience how her passion for music led her to quit college after a semester and a half, and how her first ever time performing in front of people came when she was a sophomore in high school. Evans chose to sing Sara Evans’ “Born to Fly” and had a great time, until she later found out her mic was off the entire time. She said it was a bit of redemption opening for Sara this evening.
My favorite moment came when she talked about leaving her steady boyfriend behind to move to Nashville. When she decided to end the relationship, he confronted her, saying she was only building sandcastles with him, or building up a relationship that was only going to fall. She took his out-of-character poeticism and turned it into “Sandcastles,” which I rather enjoyed. She also sang a self-penned tune written in the middle of the night dog-sitting and covered Katy Perry’s “E.T.”
I’ve seen Kiley perform a number of times, but none were as perfectly enjoyable as her thirty-minute showcase at the Music Circus. Seeing as we’re about the same age, she comes off very relatable, and is a natural at what she’s doing. I cannot remember a time when an opening act’s set flew by so fast. I’ve said it before, but this woman is destined to get bigger and bigger as her career flourishes, as she gets better and better as a writer and a singer.