it up at HOB
rock review by Jim Derogatis in Chicago Sun-Times today.
of her well-heeled fans likely feel no remorse whatsoever, California
singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow is best viewed as one of rock's guilty
Don't get me wrong: I love her. But the reasons I cringe when admitting
this were apparent when she played an intimate club show Thursday night
at the House of Blues, returning to Chicago only a few weeks after her
big summer splash at the Tweeter Center.
Both of these shows were corporate-sponsored up the wazoo. Thursday's
show was brought to us by a shampoo company which plastered its name
on every available surface and gave away enough sample packets of its
product to cleanse the scalps of an entire small nation.
Sheryl had no problems with this. She even gave the company an extra
plug onstage, running her fingers through her own long, sun-drenched
mane to imply that its sheen was a result of her sponsors (when in fact
she probably had a hairdresser back at the hotel).
As she sat before a grand piano during the encore to deliver a melodramatic
reading of "Safe & Sound" (another of many songs that,
while written earlier, have taken on new meaning post-9/11), she also
took a shot at President Bush for his warmongering against Iraq.
Both her political commentating and her commercial prostituting were
delivered with the same sort of obviously fake but nonetheless effective
sincerity. She may be shallow and superficial, but, as is often the
case with great pop music, it's an ultra-appealing shallowness and superficiality,
one that leaves you thinking, "I don't care whether she means it
or not, I can't help singing along!"
And sing along the fans did, as Crow and her fantastically tight, polished
and impeccably dressed band of session pros delivered one jangly, hook-filled
mini-masterpiece after another: "Steve McQueen", "Soak
Up the Sun", "C'mon C'mon"(the title track of her recent
hit album), "Leaving Las Vegas", "If It Makes You Happy".
None of these songs have the deep emotional resonance as would works
sung by an artist like, say, Liz Phair (the Chicago expatriate who sang
on Crow's last album), much less a PJ Harvey or a Sinead O'Connor. Rather
than pondering the heartbreak or soul-searching that prompted Crow to
write these tunes, as you watch her deliver her flawless vocals and
shake her flawless, designer-jeans clad rump, you think, "Wow,
it's amazing that someone can dance around like that in 4 1/2-inch heels!
And isn't that bared belly-button something?!"
None of these songs have an iota of originality, as Crow cheerfully
points out with her habit of segueing from one of her tunes into a snippet
of an FM-radio classic-rock standard by the likes of Steve Miller or
the Who. (She also delivered a complete rendition of Led Zeppelin's
"Rock 'n' Roll" during the encore, belting it out while standing
atop the aforementioned grand piano. To which I can only say: Whooo!)
But none of these songs is anything less than surefire addictive. Originality
can be overrated in pop music, a forum where the hook prevails above
all else. And in her quest to update the peaceful easy feelings of early
'70s California rock (Eagles, Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne, Stevie
Nicks), Crow ranks right up there with her mentors.
If you have any admiration at all for tuneful jangle, you can't help
being swept along and seduced by her charms. I was at the House of Blues.
But at least I have the decency to feel guilty about it.