This past weekend my partner and I went to Arundel, Maine to the Vinegar Hill Music Theater to see Paula Cole perform a This Fire 20th anniversary concert. She wasn’t doing a lot of these shows so we wanted to make sure we caught at least one. It was a three hour drive so we decided to make a long weekend of it and also spend some time in Portland.
The Vinegar Hill Music Theater is a half hour south of Portland and is in the middle of nowhere. An oasis among corn fields…or really long grass…or something, what do I know, I’m no farmer. Parking was in a gravel parking lot and the walkway to the venue was crushed sea shells. The theater is a beautifully remodeled barn with an outdoor bar with string lights and the barn itself is lit with lights that look like candles sitting on beams along the walls. The acoustics were perfection from the start and the seats were super comfortable. I only wish it were closer so I could see more shows there.
I’ve seen Paula quite a few times and each time is always special. She sounded amazing and her appreciation for her fans is inspiring. No artist I’ve ever seen has such a give and take relationship with her fans. Paula did a couple of her songs from various albums in her career before launching into the live version of This Fire song for song. For an encore she did her usual final song which is a version of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.” You haven’t lived until you’ve heard Paula Cole beatbox.
Another thing that made this show special was a few days before the show, she released a live album called This Bright Red Feeling that was recorded live during a show in New York City on this tour. It has live versions of every song from This Fire except for “Throwing Stones”, “Mississippi”, and “Road To Dead.” Their quality wasn’t good enough to make the album, luckily she did perform them live at her concert. This Bright Red Feeling does have live and rerecorded versions of her biggest hits “Where Have All The Cowboys Gone” and “I Don’t Want To Wait” though. There’s also a live version of “The Ballad Of Hollis Brown” which she explained is a Bob Dylan song she hopes to record for her upcoming covers album tentatively called Ballads that she did a Kickstarter campaign to fund.
This Bright Red Feeling sounds amazing and gives the listener a sample of how amazing Paula is live. It’s also a great souvenir for anyone lucky enough to have seen one of these anniversary shows. However, nothing can compare to actually seeing her live and being able to hear and feel the magic that she is able to conjure up. If you have the opportunity to see her, do, because you won’t regret it. You’ll be given a show unlike one you’ve seen before.