Paula Cole at Shalin Liu and Rockport Two

Last year’s trip to Rockport inspired me to visit again. I was able to pop into more shops, experience more of the town, spend time on the beach and put my feet in the water…and see Rockport native Paula Cole perform at the Shalin Liu Performance Center.

I have long wanted to catch a performance at the Shalin Liu — because of it’s design and sound, but largely because of the water view from the concert hall. I traveled with three companions, and our Rockport day was woven around the chance to see Cole’s performance in a setting we were eager to experience.

Walking Around Town

It was a hot July day: in the high 80’s, full sun, and somewhat humid. Relief came in the form of an occasional light breeze off the water.

With three companions, I didn’t think of the trip in terms of a “Creative Juice Trip”. However, in terms of time spent with three friends in a coastal town, capped by a great musical performance, the day was “juice” enough. And, even when you travel with others, you can still take moments to “see” your surroundings.

Photography took a back seat, but I spent some time playing with the Cinematic app on my phone and took some quick phone pics.

rockport ma harbor motif no 1

Shops, Art, Inspiration

After scoring a prime parking spot steps away from Shalin Liu mid-morning , we wandered in and out of shops on Main Street, including a quirky books/antiques store, and then made our way through the shops at Bearskin Neck.

One of our first stops on Bearskin Neck was One Ocean One Love, an inspirational shop therapy destination for me. I picked up an extremely soft hoody there, woven in various shades of blue and white. The shop’s mission is to create “hand printed surf inspired clothing” and offer “one of a kind ocean related products”. They are small, eco-friendly, and donate 5% of all profits to help keep the oceans clean.

I was inspired by paintings and art; pottery; glassware; wood, pewter, and silver creations—and so much more in the small shops on Bearskin Neck.

We took time to sit and pause at the end of Bearskin Neck to take in the view of the ocean and harbor before getting a bite to eat and making our way back through town. We sampled some gelato, checked out more shops, then walked down to Front Beach. The hour or so we spent watching the water ebb and flow and gurgle over the rocks was a great respite from the day and a wonderful way for all of us to recharge before dinner.

Paula Cole at Shalin Liu Center

The Shalin Liu Center was designed within a modest looking historic building on Main Street. The interior design features a dramatic floor-to-ceiling glass wall behind the stage that offers a spectacular view of the harbor. On the walls, a woven-wood design emulates waves on the water, and stone reflects the area’s natural setting and history and adds to the acoustic sound of the hall. We were excited to see a performance with that view as a backdrop. Imagine our surprise then, when the view was that of a curtain. Note: if you are going for the view only, reconsider. The curtain can be pulled for some performances.

Paula Cole’s performance  was moving. It was a privilege to hear her perform her new album, Revolution in its entirety. It was a bit of a pre-tour of the tour for her new release. The new album, her 10th, will drop September 13, 2019. 

The socio-political album tells a story of those sidelined by gender, age, and race. “Blues in Gray” is a song for women who did not get to bring everything they are into their lives. “Silent” is autobiographical, pulling on personal experiences. “Undertow (One Life Lost)” is an ecological treatise. The intro, “Revolution” and “7 Deadly Sins” were both powerful songs. Cole was in fine voice, and her talented accompanying band was tight. Paula Cole talks about the new album in this clip: Revolution EPK on Vimeo 

In retrospect, the curtain as a backdrop was more suited to the overall mood of the new release, and it gives us all a good excuse to enjoy another time, hopefully with a view.

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Taking in the sights? Stop in at local artists’ and studios. The work can be fantastic. Craft shops can provide great finds and inspiration as well. What speaks to you? Why?

Look at the buildings around you. Generally, artists inhabit quirky buildings. How do they reflect the vibe of the town? Imagine living in one. Write about the look and the feel of the place.


Shalin Liu boasts spectacular views and extraordinary acoustics. The center is the home of the Rockport Chamber Music Festival and also hosts the Rockport Jazz Festival and a diverse program of musical performances including classical, jazz, folk, pop, and world music. HD broadcasts from the Metropolitan Opera and England’s National Theater and films are also regularly offered.

The interior design reflects the cultural and natural legacies of Cape Ann. Natural themes of wood, stone, and water are included throughout the design. Walls clad in stone reflect the town’s rocky coast and are beneficial to room acoustics. Woodwork appears curved to reflect the rippling seascape. The floor to ceiling window behind the stage showcases the beauty of Rockport Harbor.


First stop: we picked up some iced beverages at Brothers Brew Coffee Shop on Main Street. Shops we visited on Bearskin Neck included Carol Lee’s Cottage, The Pewter Shop, and Lauri Kaihlanen Gallery. For a healthy nosh in a cool place, we popped into Bean & Leaf Cafe. The food was great, the view was fantastic and the A/C was so welcome on a hot day!

We shopped at Lula’s Pantry, a great source of kitchen gadgets. Thanks to them for a great in-store play list to get our music vibe going. We enjoyed gelato at Robin’s Nest on Main Street and ate dinner at
Brackett’s Oceanview Restaurant. Brackett’s is steps from Shalin Liu, and the servers were quick, efficient, and nice. The view was beautiful, and the fried clams, with a light batter, were tasty.

Shops in Rockport may be open limited hours Monday-Thursday, especially in the off-season.