Erin Costelo Makes Her Philadelphia Debut

Erin Costelo

Having enjoyed the concert in Toronto with Erin Costelo, who launched her brand new “Sweet Marie” album at The Dakota Tavern in October, a post-show chat with Erin revealed that she planned to be in PA later in the year as part of a small US tour.  Promptly securing our tickets, we drove east to Philadelphia last Thursday to once again catch Erin Costelo live in concert, courtesy of the Philadelphia Folksong Society.

Making our first visit (with several more planned, looking at their 2019 schedule) to this new music venue on the west side of the city, Erin received a very warm welcome to the stage.  “This is our first time in Philly,” she announced.  “We’re especially happy to be here because our car was broken down a few days ago, and we weren’t sure we were going to make it.”  Unlike the Toronto show, which featured her full band, Erin was touring the US as a duo with her long-time guitarist Clive Macnutt, making for a completely different sound and perspective.  And although a few tracks would be included from the latest album, Erin was willing to share plenty of material from her previous albums too.  Add a few interesting covers into the mix, and the intimate crowd at Philly were privy to an outstanding night of music.

After opening with a completely unexpected (and fabulous) rendition of “The Birds That Wake The Day,” from her 2009 “Fire & Fuss” album, Erin quickly introduced her on-stage companion to the room.  “This is Clive Macnutt on guitar, who’s very sharply dressed tonight,” she stated, as all eyes focused on the blue-suited gentleman to her right.  “In addition to being the guitar player in this duo, Clive is also my partner in life, and now, after nine years of waiting, fiancé.”  Receiving applause and encouragement from the room, Erin announced that the next track would be a love song dedicated to him; reaching into her 2012 “We Can Get Over” album to play “I Don’t Know Anything.”  Erin would return to this album later in the show, performing popular numbers such as “Oh Me Oh My” and “Give A Little.”

With “Try Try Try Again,” Erin would perform a track that she co-wrote, but never recorded herself.  “I wrote this song with a really wonderful songwriter named Stephen Fearing,” she explained.  “This song was recorded by Blackie and the Rodeo Kings on an album called ‘South.’”  “I thought my suit was gonna do?” added Clive, with great comedic timing.  “Your suit’s not good enough for Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, no way,” joked Erin in response.  “They wear these really sharp Nudie suits, but you’re doing pretty good Clive; it’s a step up from your jeans and your t-shirt, it’s alright.”  This fine display of chemistry continued into the performance of this track, which really allowed Clive the opportunity to dazzle the room with some incredible guitar work.  “Every time I mention Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, it lights a little bit of a fire under Clive,” Erin shared at the close of the song.  “There’s a guitar player in the band named Colin Linden, so Clive feels inspired to step it up a bit.”  “Yeah, he’s alright,” added Clive. “Colin’s a great guy.”

Hearing tracks once more from “Sweet Marie” performed as a duo rather than five-piece band, offered different interpretations of “The Sign” and “Lights Down Low.”  Prior to “All In My Head,” Erin shared that she wrote this song during the album recording process, after waking in the middle of the night by what she firmly believed to be a UFO seen in the distance from her bedroom window.  “I was in the bed next to you, and I didn’t see any green light,” Clive added, which would receive chuckles from the room, and his banishment to the back of the room for a couple of songs shortly afterwards.

Easily forgiven, Erin dedicated “My Love,” from “Sweet Marie,” to her fiance during her first solo number.  Following up with “Lord Come And Take Me Home,” she provided some background to the origins of this powerful song.  “Stephen Fearing and I, we got to know each other because we were put together on this song writing blind date by the folks at CBC in Halifax,” she explained.  “They commissioned us to write three songs together, and I had never co-written with anyone, let alone a great songwriter like Stephen, so I was very nervous.”  “Once we’d agreed, the producer said, ‘Oh, by the way, one of those songs needs to be about the Titanic,’” Erin continued.  “It was the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, and they wanted to commemorate it, and Stephen and I ended up writing eight songs together, purely to avoid writing ‘The Titanic’ song, I’m sure of it … but I woke up in the middle of the night, and the whole first verse of this song was done … Stephen came over the next day and we finished the song together.”

Erin and Clive would share a diverse selection of cover versions throughout the night, incorporating music from Carole King, John Prine, and Randy Newman into their set.  Sharing a tale of being a proud foster parent of dogs, and the sad death of her sweet canine companion earlier this week, Erin dedicated Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” to the memory of “Minnie.”  And with a very rousing version of “Fighter,” from her 2016 “Down Below, The Status Quo” album, a dedication was made this time to career backing singer Merry Clayton, best known for those powerful vocals on the Rolling Stones hit, “Gimme Shelter.”  After earning their standing ovation and taking their bows at the end of the evening, Clive hollered, “Let’s do one more,” leading to an off-the-cuff encore version of “Down Down Down Down” to bring this show to a close.  Another fantastic evening of music from Erin Costelo, and a great way to spend a couple of hours in Philadelphia on a Thursday night in December.

Set List:

  1. The Birds That Wake The Day
  2. I Don’t Know Anything
  3. Give A Little
  4. Try Try Try Again (co-written with Stephen Fearing)
  5. Lights Down Low
  6. Worry Don’t Weigh Me Down
  7. Will You Love Me Tomorrow (Carole King cover)
  8. The Sign
  9. All In Your Head
  10. My Love
  11. Time After Time (Cyndi Lauper cover)
  12. Lord Come And Take Me Home (co-written with Stephen Fearing)
  13. Angel From Montgomery (John Prine cover)
  14. Everyday
  15. Fighter
  16. Oh Me Oh My
  17. Mama Told Me Not To Come (Randy Newman cover)

Encore:

  1. Down Down Down Down
Martin Noakes

The British guy that crossed the ocean and crash landed in central Pennsylvania (to quote Greg Keelor, “And I wonder what am I doing here?”). As the youngest of four siblings, exposure to music from a very early age nurtured my passion and appreciation for many musical genres. Continuing to discover some amazingly diverse and talented musicians based in Canada, I gravitate to live music experiences and remain devoted to spreading the word about such a vibrant music scene.

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