Holy Trinity Church, Toronto, Canada - November 14th, 1998

By Martin Abela

I was one of the fortunate few who won tickets to an intimate
Sheryl Crow concert in Toronto last night. I won courtesy of 102 The
Edge morning show, for recognizing Kate Bush's "Running Up that Hill".
The winners were told it was at a secret location. I received a
voicemail message the day before the show, informing me the concert was
at the Holy Trinity Church, near the Eaton Center in downtown Toronto. I
was a little disappointed, since I was hopping for a bar venue, with the
potential for free drinks. However, despite the setting, my wish for
free drinks was not in vain. The message said the doors open at 8pm,
with Sheryl on stage at 8:30. I assumed the show would be at an
adjoining church hall, or basement or something.
I wanted to arrive early to ensure a good seat, but due to work
commitments, and arrangements for child care, could not. We arrived at
7:30, expecting to see a line of people waiting. Instead we spoke to
security guards, who said we should form a line right at the main doors
of the church. We were first in line!
The Church itself is considered a historic site in Toronto. In the
late 1960's when the Eaton family announced plans for a major
development to replace their decades old Eaton store, the church, and
Toronto's beautiful old city hall (now a court house) were threatened
with destruction. The city government, and citizen's groups, fought to
preserve both buildings, despite the Eatons' threat to cancel the
development project. The huge downtown mall was built, partially
surrounding the old Holy Trinity Church.
Between 7:30 and 8:00, a line of about 50 people did form behind us.
The doors opened at 8, and we were the first in. We were handed an
envelope with my name on it, which contained two badges with a nice
photo of Sheryl, and the details of the concert. We entered the church,
and immediately were surrounded by a group of waiters holding trays of
wine glasses. "White or Red" they offered, while I took a look around. I
had never been in the church before. A beautiful building, with stained
glass (of course!) and ornate wood carvings everywhere. Georgia and I
stood there sipping wine. Other than waiters and crew, there was no one
else there yet, since each person behind us had to wait while the door
staff found their personalized envelope.
I suddenly realized we should get a seat. We walked right to the
front of the church, and sat in the very first pew, right on the aisle.
The stage was set up in front of the alter. As we waited for Sheryl,
waiters came by offering hors d'oerves. I declined, until I heard the
magic words "wrapped filet mignon". This all seemed too incredibly
wonderful to be true, yet it was. The variety of the food was excellent
- shrimp, smoked salmon, spring rolls, satay chicken. The waiters
encouraged us to take several each time.
I also made sure to visit the bar several times for beer. At 8:40, a
representative from A&M records took the mike, and welcomed us. He said
the bar would close when Sheryl took the stage, so we should be sure to
refresh our drinks. He did not have to tell me twice!
He also said the show would be video taped, and there would be
audience shots as well. It will be a spectacular video, in the unusual
surroundings. If anyone sees it, I am the bald guy in the front row,
wearing the "Time Out of Mind" t-shirt, clutching a bottle of beer.
The stage was set up with two stools - one for Sheryl, and one for
her cue sheet, and a glass of wine. Sheryl and her guitar player (whom
she only introduced as "Tim") took the stage at 8:45. Sheryl was dressed
in a tight pair of jeans, and a long-sleeved shirt. She picked up her
guitar, looked around at the room, and said with a smile "I have asked
my manager to book me only in churches from now on." Nodding towards her
glass of wine, she added "actually, I am a little afraid of drinking in
here, in case I get struck down".
Sheryl opened with "If It Makes You Happy". She was playing an
acoustic guitar, accompanied by Tim also on acoustic guitar. He also
sang backup vocals. The song was a bit softer than the studio version,
and very well done. The acoustic in the church were ideal.
Next up is "A Change WIll Do You Good". I do not own any of Sheryl's
CDs, so I am not sure of the exact titles. I hope any purists out there
will forgive me.
For the third song, Sheryl was handed an electric bass. She said
"This song is about somebody..." but she did not say who. It is her
current single from the new album. Again, I am not sure of the exact
title, but I think it is "Favourite Mistake". Her bass playing was very
good, as was her guitar work all night. Tim also did a good guitar solo
near the end of this song.
Introducing her fourth song, Sheryl mentioned Bob Dylan for the first
time tonight.
"This song is inspired by a Walt Whitman poem from 'Leaves and
Grass' or something..." With a laugh she added "I am just making this
shit up. I did this on MuchMusic today, but forgot the words. Oh well,
if Bob Dylan can do it..."
I was not able to make note of the entire set list, since there
were several songs I did not recognize. For one song, Sheryl put on a
harmonica rigged around her neck, as we have seen Bob do so many times.
She seemed uncomfortable with it, and said it may not work out, but "if
Bob Dylan can do it". I did not know the song, but the harmonica playing
was solid, and she seemed to handle the apparently unfamliar equipment
fine.
She also did one song playing a twelve string guitar, which
sounded beautiful. Sheryl introduced this song with "this is about
getting over someone, and all the silly things you do, like cutting your
hair". This prompted friendly laughter, since Sheryl was sporting a new
haircut. The familiar flowing locks are gone. Her hair is now shoulder
length and straight. It did suite her. She looked very attractive. She
did have a very sexy stage presence, of course. Earlier, she had
mentioned that she was on the road, and single once again, so this was
the second reference she made to being available. The combination of my
front row seat, Sheryl's proximity, and her references to being single
sure got my imagination going!
The high point of the show (for me) came when she said "The next
song is called Mississippi". Of course, I immediately applauded, as did
two other people in the audience. Sheryl responded with "Well, for the
three of you who know the new album..."
"Bob Dylan's manager called me, and offered me this song, which Bob
had recorded for his album 'Time Out of Mind'. He is a young guy just
starting out, so I wanted to help him out." Said with a smile of course,
which prompted laughs from the crowd. I recall earlier reports which
said that Bob himself called her, but I guess we know the truth now.
Her version of Mississippi was beautiful. It was only the second
time I heard it (once at a record store) but I found the melody going
through my head the rest of the night. It is an excellent song, and I do
hope to hear Bob do it one day.
There was one other song, in which Tim sang lead for the second half,
and then they left the stage. After a couple of minutes of applause and
foot stomping on the wooden floors, she returned to the stage.
The encore consisted of only two songs, "Every Day is a WInding
Road", and one other song which I did not recognize. After this, they
left, and did not return. I expected to hear "Santa Monica Boulevard",
and was surprised they did not return to do it.
No complaints here though. It was an excellent performance, in an
amazing venue. Great acoustics, front row seats, free beer and food, and
the whole thing did not cost me a penny!
I must offer my thanks to A&M records, and 102 THe Edge morning
show, featuring Humble Howard and Fred Patterson. Even though Humble and
Fred have mocked Bob in the past ("does anyone still listen to him?" the
day after the Grammies), I enjoy listening because they are very funny,
and I now have another reason to appreciate them. The show was one of
the most interesting and enjoyable experiences of my life - and I lead a
very interesting life.
Maybe one day I will do a post about the time I saw a Canadian
guitar legend (who has played with George Harrison and B.B. King)
perform a Bob Dylan song in a bar in St. John's Newfoundland....

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