The seventh time was definitely a charm. Susan Werner’s concert appearance No. 7 in Easton marked the grand opening Thursday night, Nov. 5, of the Avalon Foundation’s Stoltz Pavilion. The concert tent Pavilion will stage live outdoor performances through the fall and winter months.
It was a mildly chilly night, with temperatures later dipping into the 40s. Al Bond, Avalon’s president, and CEO warmly welcomed the first audience members.
Seating is by two- and four-person clusters at tall cocktail chairs and tables as well as love seats–all socially distanced more than the minimally recommended six feet apart. Drinks are ordered by text messaging and delivered to your seat. Payment is by credit card only. Compliance with mandatory mask-wearing appeared will be strictly enforced. I was asked, politely but firmly, to pull up my mask while I was between sips of my gin and tonic. Message received: Don’t linger, mask-down, for more than a minute.
Seating at the Stoltz, named for the Avalon supporters whose surname also identifies the Stoltz Room upstairs at the indoor Dover Street theater, will vary according to stage configuration and audience turnout. Bond estimated Thursday night’s crowd at 80 or so, a lower figure than expected, possibly because the original opening night, Oct. 30, was postponed due to delays in erecting the tent. The maximum capacity for the pavilion located adjacent to the TalbotTown shopping center is 125.
Werner is a versatile singer-songwriter whose folk-pop repertoire ranges from ballads to blues, from story songs to foot-stomping country. One such selection performed Thursday evening was “Wine Bottles” from her just-released “Flyover Country” album. She calls it her pandemic song: “They’re making wine bottles smaller all the time,” just when we may need that comfort beverage more than ever.
Alternately accompanying herself on piano and guitar, Werner–in a sleeveless denim outfit–opened with a rollicking New Orleans blues ode to “Oysters Rockefeller at Antoine’s,” after which she recalled playing Easton’s Farmer’s Market where she was surprised and delighted to find a vendor selling oysters. “It’s not what a girl from Iowa expects to see at a farmer’s market,” said the farmgirl turned troubadour, French for a singing poet. Werner, who first aspired to an opera career, showed off her vocal chops most compellingly on Edith Piaf’s heart-tugging love ballad, “La Vie en Rose”–in French, of course.
In between, she entertained us for 90 minutes without intermission, dispensing good humor on such songs as “City Kids,” from her “Hayseed” album, complaining that, unlike herself, those title kids “never did no chores.” Then, after observing, “Revenge is good for your health,” Werner’s “Egg Money” protagonist confesses to breakfast homicide. But it was her pooch-smooch ditty that nearly brought the tent down with laughter: “You kissed your dog on the mouth/That’s when it all went south/That’s when my feet hit the floor/And I walked out your door.” (I could go further, but I don’t want to spoil the fun. Catch the song and the rest of the concert on YouTube.)
Attending opening night of the Stoltz Pavilion was Caroline Boutte of Easton, who declared the evening “wonderful,” to which her husband Peter Gallagher added, “We’re so grateful to have this new place to enjoy live music.”
Let’s hope Susan Werner makes a return trip to Easton sooner than later–perhaps in a COVID-free future. Since moving from Chicago, she now lives just a couple of hours up the road in Philadelphia.
Steve Parks is a retired New York arts writer and editor now living in Easton.
Susan Werner, Nov. 5 concert available on YouTube, $25 suggested
Cris Jacobs, live 7 p.m. Nov. 6, $60-$120 or live-streamed on YouTube, Facebook, $25 suggested
Chris Tapper, 7 p.m. Nov. 7, $50-$100
Martin Sexton, 7 p.m. Nov. 8, $100-$200