Couple's concert offers insight to long lasting relationships

By: Feb. 11, 2024

Each Valentine’s Day brings a mixed bag of confections: the dark chocolate candies, the gooey marshmallow valentines, and the chalky hearts with messages that range from “UR Hot” to “Fat Chance.”

Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler’s “Infamous Love Songs: an Over the Rhine Valentine’s Concert” offered a similar mixed assortment of candies to the sold-out crowd at the Lincoln Theatre (769 E. Long Street in downtown Columbus). The couple, who have been married for 22 years, reached deep into their collective tin-foil shoebox of Valentine’s and came out with a solid 19-song setlist. Some were sweet, some a little salty and nearly all of them found their target like a laser-honed Cupid’s arrow.

On the title track for the evening, “Infamous Love Song” (from the 2011’s The Long Surrender), Bergquist’s whiskey scarred vocals intoned the course for the evening, “Now I bring all our secrets To show and tell/How we dragged each other through heaven and hell/It's our smoking gun but hey, we're still alive/Baby our love song must survive.”

The pre-Valentine’s Day show replaced Over The Rhine’s annual Columbus Christmas concert which couldn’t be accommodated by the Lincoln Theatre last December.

“We got letters, so many angry letters,” Bergquist quipped.

Yet the two-off Valentine’s shows (a second performance was held in Hamilton, Ohio on Feb. 10) were a welcome relief to the blahs of February in Ohio. Many of the night’s offerings reflected the ups and downs of a life intertwined with love, marriage, and other occupational hazards.

 “Earthbound Love Song” from 2013’s “Meet Me at the Edge of the World,” for example, references envying the marriage of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash with lines like “We need a love like Johnny and June.” Shortly after the last notes of the song faded, Detweiler smiled at his wife and then said to the audience, “My wife likes to point out that was the second marriage for both Johnny and June.”

“Someone once asked Johnny Cash, ‘what was the secret to a good marriage?’ He said, ‘Separate sinks,’” Bergquist quipped. “We always make sure we have two sinks wherever we go.”

Sinks aside, the two seem to paint a realistic portrait of a marriage. Some of the songs just radiate the simple love of two people. The ballad, “I Want You to be My Love” from 2005’s “Drunkard’s Prayer” is a plea of wistful longing described in 109 words and repeats some lines two or three times throughout it.

“We were having a contest of who could write a love song in the fewest words,” Detweiler said. “I think she won that one.”

Yet Bergquist’s gentle reading of the simplicity of “I Want You to be My Love” makes the tune seem much deeper and complex.

The two seem to have that innate ability to write simple poetry without making them seem like something you would find at the Valentine’s cards bin at Walmart.

Detweiler talked about fearing that “Born,” also from “Drunkard’s Prayer,” was becoming a bit too schmaltzy. A trip to Columbus killed that vibe.

“I remember thinking ‘Does this sound like something you’d read on a Hallmark card?’” he said with a wry smile. “We were driving to Columbus, and we passed those lovely foothills (the landfills outside of the city on I-71). They seem to grow a little larger each year. All of a sudden, we looked at them and there was a rainbow over the landfill.”

The sight inspired Over The Rhine to add the line, “We've seen the landfill rainbow/We've seen the junkyard of love” to “Born” and that seemed to dilute the sugariness of the tune.

“So, thank you for that, Columbus,” Detweiler added with a chuckle.

In an interview with BroadwayWorld, Detweiler described the first time he heard his wife’s voice, he realized she “was often singing from the place where her pain lived.”

And yet Bergquist seemed to flip some sort of invisible switch to optimism and hope when she covered the late Christine McVie’s “Songbird” from Fleetwood Mac’s legendary “Rumours” album (1977) and in the show’s iconic closer “Moon River” by Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini.

It might be a while before the Columbus area gets a second dose of OTR. After a Feb. 22 show in Bloomington, Ind., the duo heads off for a run of shows in the Netherlands in June and a pair of shows in Tennessee and Georgia in July before returning to Ohio in the fall.

“Maybe we’ll come back for another Christmas show,” Detweiler said.

Photo credit: Kylie Wilkerson