I don’t usually book people I haven’t seen (something I learned the hard way), so it was especially hard to say no to Anne Heaton since she’d been pointed my way by the always terrific Peter Mulvey, who’s played the basement three times before. I mentioned that fact to a friend who responded “I love Anne Heaton!” That was enough for me, I e-mailed her back and said I’d love to have her. It took awhile to come up with a date, but eventually we settled on this weekend in January. Since I thought Heaton was an east coast based musician, I couldn’t figure out why she was so flexible on dates. It’s not like a trip to the basement would be a one-off that would pay for a whole trip. Turns out she and her charming husband Frank, who accompanies her on guitar and backing vocals, along with their gorgeous young daughter have relocated to Evanston, just north of Chicago. The couple is also expecting another child, and when I asked Heaton if she minded if I took video, she looked worried. “But I’m so gigantic,” she protested. Once I reassured her it was just for me, she agreed.
Despite being “gigantic,” Heaton put on a great show. She was bright and bubbly, witty and charming. Her self-deprecating sense of humor and patience with the capacity crowd reflected a strong stage presence. I can see why Mulvey likes her. While the new record is full of pretty songs and stories, I found that I liked the songs she introduced as being older ones the best. They were lighter, more playful. The sweetest moment of the night came when she was able to sing a song she had written for her friends Meg and Kevin who live in Madison and were in the audience, along with many of their friends. The song reveled in the magic of a couple who knew they were right for each other as teens. Opener Whitney Mann engaged the crowd from the second she opened her mouth. I’d first seen Mann with a band opening for Blake Thomas a couple years back, but it wasn’t till I saw her play the Johnny Cash tribute last year that I realized how good she really was. She’s petite, but her size belies her voice. It’s powerful and undeniably gorgeous. I had asked her several times before to play, but this was the first time she was able to. She’s very busy, and I felt lucky to get her.
It’s no secret that I am not a fan of girl singers. I have my favorites to be sure, but there aren’t that many of them. I’m glad I took the chance with Heaton and Mann. And oh yeah, the friend who urged me to book her, turns out she couldn’t make the show. It didn’t matter though. I was sure this show wouldn’t draw more than a couple dozen people, but thanks to Carl, who made it one of his meetup.com events, it sold out. I can’t thank him enough.