Jones Beach Center - Wantagh, New York - August 30, 2006

Pop Music
A change does Crow good
Special to Newsday

Sheryl Crow had a dilemma. No, not which rock star to date next; she had a musical predicament. After more than a decade of building a career on full throttle anthem-like songs that people sing along to without prompting, this spring she released "Wildflower" (A&M), her most liad-back recording. How do you manage a summer tour of that?

Before she could deal with the musical quandaries, some real life ones intervened; she and cycling legend Lance Armstrong terminated their engagement and she was diagnosed with breast cancer. (She's since had surgery and recovered). Those bits of personal drama probably left her happy to resume activities like touring.

Crow arrived at Jones Beach with a standard quartet, plus a keybardist who played a lot of organ and a string quartet. This alignment gave some of the songs richer textures. She started and ended with familiar workouts, opening with her own "A Change Would Do You Good" and "There Goes the Neighborhood," and she brought Mayer on to play guitar on "My Favorite Mistake" and "Jet Airliner," a tune made famous by the Steve Miller Band.

Crow's voice rasped a bit on the early tunes, as if it were still adjusting to rigors during this early stage of her six-week tour, but it was less prominent in the mix than during her last Jones Beach stop three years ago. After a rousing version of "Steve McQueen," the show shifted into its more intimate protion with the strings and organ highlighted on songs like "Redemption," "Wildflower," and a particularly good rendition of "Home" that included a brief surprise, an interpolation of Gordon Lightfoot's nugget "Sundown."

Crow closed with two more up-tempo workouts, "Soak Up the Sun," and "Every Day Is a Winding Road," which included a fair amount of impromptu audience participation.

Mayer asked for audience participation with his first tune, but he spent most of his 75-minute set working his easygoing and slightly reticent charm and show-casing his stellar band, especailly guitarist Robbie McIntosh, who has played long stints with The Pretenders and Paul McCartney. Mayer's slide work was a highlight of "Something's Missing" and "Vultures."

Mayer's music consistently evoked rootsy tropes like open roads and hinted at outlaw connections, even though he couldn't be more the nice boy next door, and his lyrics are aware of that. His songs alternate between dealing with the frustration that so many rock and roll poses are now cliches and with communicating a general coming-of-age enthusiasm. The pathos of an outsider looking in, a cornerstone of so much roots rock, is not part of Mayer's world.

Mayer split his set between older favorites and new songs from his upcoming release, "Continuum" (Columbia). THe new songs like "Slow Dancing in a Burning Room" and "Waiting on the World to Change" fared as well as his older material like "Daughers." He often played electric guitar on the new ones and moved more confidently, even swaggering at times.

WHEN & WHERE SHERYL CROW AND JOHN MAYER Roots Rock, or well, rootsy rock willnever die. Wednesday night at the Nikon at Jones Beach Theater.

Source: Newsday