Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

August 2, 2009

Harry Chapin: Celebration in Song

Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield
August 1, 2009
by Karolina Sadowicz

Outnumbered at least 2 to 1 by instruments, Tom and Steven Chapin took the stage with the Steve Chapin Band with no fanfare nor attitude. From the moment the lights go on, they were relaxed, at ease, and warm. This musical tribute to Harry Chapin's catalog included original numbers from both his brothers, and other surprises from the Chapin family.

Weaving in lesser known songs, the Chapin brothers also delivered crowd-pleasing classics like "Cat's Cradle," "30,000 Pounds of Bananas," "Taxi," and "Circle" to a resounding chorus of tapping toes and clapping hands. Tom Chapin shared the spotlight with Steven and guitarist "Big" John Wallace, but as frontman always encouraged the audience to sing along.

Wallace and Steven Chapin also invited their sons to accompany on guitar for several songs, hinting at a Chapin family tradition that will continue for years to come. Anecdotes and friendly banter intermingled with the songs, and bold lighting changes added visual flair to an otherwise simple presentation.

The superb acoustics of the Colonial and overall sound design ensured the music was bold, but always clear, and never overpowering. Even when the Chapins occasionally struggled with a higher note, they still sounded crisp. A true testament to their musicianship, all members of the performing ensemble entertained even when tuning their instruments. During times of spirited, dynamic play, none seemed to even break a sweat.

For a fan of any of the Chapins, the show was a treat, full of familiar words and sounds. The unfussy demeanor of each performer drew attention away from just how skilled they are. The Chapins and Wallace made this look easy, although what they do was anything but. The audience was treated to top-notch musical skill in a performance that felt relaxed and personal, as though it took place at a Chapin family reunion. Everyone was invited to participate, reminisce, and enjoy.