Mary Chapin Carpenter's last gig of the millennium was both local and global. Her show Tuesday at the 9:30 club went out live over the Web and was taped for a new syndicated concert series for cable access channels across the United States.
The crowd was of two minds about the technology that inspired the event. The announcement that the affair would be so widely transmitted met with wild cheers, yet fans booed just as loudly upon learning that Bill Gates would be making a small appearance in the Webcast. The format forced some minor changes to the typical concert setup. The house lights were kept on for crowd shots, leading Carpenter to whimper, with justification, about how there was nothing left to her imagination when men yelled "I love you!" in the breaks between songs. More troublesome was the crane camera that kept swooping from the rafters to center stage, right at the singer, while she played.
But Carpenter adjusted quickly, and her fans were ecstatic to have the hometown hero in such cozy confines. They sang and danced along to the entire playlist, most of which came from her recent CD, the career retrospective "Party Doll": originals like "I Take My Chances," "Down at the Twist and Shout," "He Thinks He'll Keep Her" and some usual covers--"Passionate Kisses" and "I Feel Lucky," among others. The arrangements were generally familiar, though guitarist Duke Levine added a few more notes and decibels to the solos that longtime Carpenter band stalwart John Jennings (who now plays bass) would likely have played.
Carpenter's encores were more experimental. But because she didn't want "If I Were a Diva"--a hilarious and quite brutal sendup of Mariah, Madonna, Shania and Celine--to reach the wrong ears, she played the song only after being assured the Webcast portion of the concert was over. She ended the night with a rocking version of Bruce Springsteen's "My Love Will Not Let You Down," and her own self-esteem builder, "Why Walk When You Can Fly?" If the Luddites in the house disagreed with the song's title, they danced anyway.