Murat Center - Indianapolis, Indiana (USA) - June 12, 2006

By David Lindquist / Indystar

Sheryl Crow found both relief and release Monday at the Murat Theatre, where she played her first solo concert since undergoing treatment for breast cancer earlier this year.

During the opening segment of the show, the pop-rock star didn't mention being sidelined beyond a remark of "It's really nice to be playing music again."

Crow, however, has made a career of revealing inner thoughts on her own terms. Tough-girl anthems "Strong Enough" and "My Favorite Mistake" -- a pair of hits from the '90s -- amplified that attitude on Monday.

If she felt the night's emotional weight, it happened during the first moments of the song "Home." Crow paused, admitted to spacing the lyrics and said she was thinking about the "weird vacation" that delayed the tour that originally was to bring her to Indianapolis in March.

Although the lyrics of "Home" describe a dead-end relationship, she seemed to be embracing a return to the road while singing, "This is home."

The concert began with a torch-song rendition of "Run, Baby, Run," the first track on her 1993 debut album, "Tuesday Night Music Club." A string quartet added swirling dread to the tune, and Crow stood center stage wearing a light-colored camisole

and jeans accented by flowers down each leg. She appeared more comfortable when playing acoustic guitar during "Good is Good," a selection from current album "Wildflower."

She's most at ease, though, when wearing and playing bass guitar. The large, groove-centric instrument is a natural extension of her strong yet close-to-the-vest personality. Crow may have let go of months of tension during back-to-back renditions of "Favorite Mistake" and "The First Cut is the Deepest," and her trusty bass deserves some of the credit.

If the show is to be tweaked as the tour progresses, Crow and her crew may want to rethink "Run" as a first statement. The relaxed qualities of her "Wildflower" material made better connections than the overwrought opener.

"I Know Why," which happens to begin "Wildflower's" track listing, allowed Crow to showcase a childlike voice that also packs enough punch to sail above eight backing musicians.

And the song's theme of new beginnings, while written long before Crow's diagnosis or her breakup with Lance Armstrong, also speaks volumes.