London, England, UK - Shepherd's Bush Empire - December 7th, 2003

Rock chick in Kylie clothing

She's a total rock chick, Sheryl Crow, though we're used to seeing her hide the fact. It's not often you see her, for example, strutting her way to the mic wearing white leggings, six-inch red stilettos and a crop top exposing the sort of washboard stomach last seen on Paula Radcliffe. The opening date of her three-night stint at the homely Empire saw her do all this while swapping between instruments with effortless, man-conquering facility.

The sight of a woman fronting her own band, performing songs she wrote herself and swapping riffs with her male lead guitarist is still horribly rare. There's never been an obvious reason to compare Crow, whose blend of Seventies Rolling Stones and country rock has always been quirky but never at all subversive, to Patti Smith, but, despite the Kylie-ish get-up, here she was at least as cool.

Her undemonstrative style, which you could easily mistake for either nonchalance or lack of commitment, didn't do the subdued Sunday-night atmosphere many favours. Crow and her band pummelled their way through at least four songs before she acknowledged an audience that seemed reluctant even to take off their coats, never mind stand up.

"You guys should give up your jobs," said the former teacher and self-confessed stoner, slinging her bright red Telecaster over a gym-toned shoulder. "I quit mine and it worked out beautifully."

Roughly a thousand people of mortgageable age could be heard to wonder aloud if Crow had heard anything about the rising Bank of England base rate. It's a good job, then, that she followed this remark by putting on a fantastic rally of her best songs. After all, she did have a greatest hits album to promote.

A Change Would Do You Good began with an extended riff on the chords of the Stones' Gimme Shelter, while Every Day is a Winding Road made a brilliantly twangy feature of its pedal-steel motif.

Soon, though, she was off again. "Roll on the peace rally," her introduction to an otherwise stirring Redemption Day, was met with complete silence. The gap between her image of herself as radical, hippie-ish singer-songwriter and the expectation of her audience, who are used to seeing her as a breezy antidote to the politicised likes of Radiohead, was never greater. But boy, was she cool.

Source: Daily Telegraph, December 9th, 2003

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