Mary Chapin, Mavericks

By Jean Metcalfe

"Are you sure?"

The hesitant blonde singer couldn't quite believe that her April 2 audience at Freedom Hall wanted a third encore. Thunderous foot-stomping quickly dismissed any doubt.

Despite a lingering spring cold ("I feel like Marlo Thomas when she says 'Oh, Donald!'"), the award-winning entertainer had delivered anything but a flawed performance.

And "You Don't Know Me (Opening Act)" wasn't on her play list either. Carpenter's performance of that clever original had been quite an attention-getter at the 1990 Country Music Association awards show. And then before anyone could say "Sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug," she had stolen a Grammy Awards show with her performance of "Down at the Twist and Shout," and collected a Grammy.

Hello headliner.

On this April 2 Sunday, with the help of excellent sound and lighting, Carpenter transformed a simple stage in the huge arena into a cozy space for an intimate exchange between singer and listener.

"Why Walk When You Can Fly," from her current album Stones in the Road, introduced Carpenter in an upstage spotlight, and set the pace for a most enjoyable evening for fans of the Washington, D.C. artist. From her triple platinum fourth album Come On Come On, there was much gold to mine, including "Passionate Kisses," "I Feel Lucky" and "The Bug." Earlier albums were represented, along with more from the new release, including its popular first single, "Shut Up and Kiss Me."

Although backed this evening by five talented musicians, Carpenter shone brightest during a sequence of ballads accompanied only by piano player Matt Rollings. The first of these numbers, "Only a Dream," earned a standing ovation.

"He Thinks He'll Keep Her" ended with a downstage bow by the entire ensemble and a demand by the fans for more.

"Down at the Twist and Shout" led off Encore No. 1, while No. 2 included "Stones in the Road" and a brief bit of editorializing: "I think that the arts are like school lunches. We need nourishment for our bodies and for our souls."

The final encore was brief, finding Carpenter "heading down the highway with both hands on the wheel."

The Mavericks kicked off the evening with "What a Crying Shame" (the title cut from their current album) and followed up with other band originals "There Goes My Heart," "Blues Inside of Me" and "I Should Have Been True."

Despite covering such hit material as the Hag's "Bottle Let Me Down," Springsteen's "All That Heaven Will Allow" and Elvis' "I Can't Help Falling in Love With You" (which lead singer Raul Malo dedicated to his newly pregnant wife in the audience), the Mavericks didn't seem to catch fire until late in their set. Blame it on Daylight Saving Time. (And Malo could've used some backing vocals.)

The Mavericks' final offerings – Hank Sr.'s "Hey Good Lookin'" (from their debut release, From Hell to Paradise, and "(All Day All Night) Mary Ann" – earned them a short encore medley that began and ended with Williams' "Jambalaya."