Kathy Mattea CSPS Hall, Cedar Rapids, IA


Cedar Rapids, IA (March 17, 2016)
“He farts a lot, which we take to mean he likes what we’re doing.”That’s how Kathy Mattea described the input of her dog into the creative process that has resulted in her “Living Room Tour”. This is descriptive both of the process by which she has been exploring and developing new directions with her music, as well as the more intimate venues she has been performing in lately. (It also shows just how down to earth she is.) The audience for her sold out show at CSPS Hall Thursday night was treated to a side of Kathy not commonly known during her illustrious career.Many performers with Kathy’s accomplishments-16 hit records, multiple Grammy, CMA and ACM and ACA awards and nominations-would be content to rest on their laurels and tour playing standards and hits for the inevitable adoring crowds. Kathy instead has decided to explore new musical territory, namely blues and jazz style songs. It’s a gutsy move for a country artist, but Thursday’s performance proved she is more than up to the challenge, both vocally and in writing and selecting songs.Kathy’s “butterscotch and silk” voice hasn’t changed much since she started garnering hits and awards back in the late 80s. It still has that husky, alluring quality that can make your heart ache and move you with even the simplest lyrics. Her voice is, in fact, well suited to blues and jazz styles that she has been adding to her repertoire of late and showing off during her latest “Living Room” tour.
Not that she neglected her “heritage”. She performed many of her hits, including “18 Wheels and a Dozen Roses” and the always touching “Where’ve You Been” (I admit when I first heard this song on my car radio tears welled up in my eyes). She also paid tribute to both her faith and some of her favorite song writers with songs such as Dougie McClean’s “Ready for the Storm” (a highlight of the evening for me). She knows what her fans like, but also knows what her fans will like hearing from her, which is the mark of a true musical star.Imagine the same passionate voice that made “Where’ve You Been” a song to cry to performing an up tempo blues number, or songs in the style of Ellington or Cole Porter, and you have an idea what Thursday’s concert was like. Throw in a rousing guitar duet with long time collaborator Bill Cooley (another stretch for Kathy) and it was a fabulously delightful evening all around.When a performer has a long and successful career coupled with a fanatically loyal fan base, there is a certain risk in exploring new musical frontiers. That is that the fans of the old may not appreciate the new. That certainly wasn’t the case at CSPS Hall, as the appreciation shown by the audience was long and loud. Kathy’s risk is paying off big.
After the show, Kathy took time to sign autographs and pose for photos with anyone who asked. While this happens most of the time at CSPS Hall concerts, Kathy went out of the way to make sure even before the show started that she would be doing a meet and greet afterwards. She’s wonderfully personable and accessible. Besides, anyone who is willing to talk about dog farts on stage is my kind of person.

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