Sheryl Crow Croons for LA’s Finest
Last Friday was Dean of Campus Life Matt Taylor’s birthday.
The celebration was held that night at the Pantages Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard, and I was among the invitees. Sheryl Crow provided the entertainment, and she drew quite a crowd. LA’s finest – heavily made-up yuppies clad in leather and leopard skin–gathered in the lobby, whose walls were adorned with elaborate, faux-Egyptian décor ("very art-deco," assured Matt Taylor). As my companions headed for the Cocktail Lounge and I tried to figure out why there was a Subaru parked next to the concession stand, Eagle Eye Cherry, the opening act, bored the small percentage of the crowd which preferred enduring mediocre live music to schmoozing with future celebrities.
After a failed attempt to make my way backstage and propose to Sheryl Crow, I sat down with the rest of my group and awaited Crow’s arrival onstage. Finally the lights dimmed, and she and her band appeared. The rich acoustic guitar and subtle piano of "Maybe That’s Something," a song from her third and latest album The Globe Sessions whose dreamy first verse might be mistaken for a Radiohead tune, filled the darkened room. Despite a rigorous touring schedule over the past two months, Crow’s voice remained crystalline as she held the audience in quiet anticipation for the first 60 seconds of the song. The somber mood was then flattened in an instant by the simultaneous punch of Crow’s drummer, bassist, and electric guitarist, who kicked in for the upbeat chorus as colored lights illuminated the stage. The band replicated perfectly the sound and feel of the song as it appears on the album–a feat which they accomplished on nearly every song that followed, with the exception of tracks from Crow’s first album, Tuesday Night Music Club.
The crowd cheered loudly as lead guitarist Peter Stroud began the funky, Stonesy riff from "My Favorite Mistake," the first single off Crow’s new album. Her more popular songs, such as "Leaving Las Vegas," "All I Wanna Do," and "A Change Would Do You Good," did indeed receive the most acknowledgement from the audience, a fact of which Crow seemed fully aware, if not a tad bitter. "We’re gonna play one you guys know now," she mocked, after a stirring rendition of "Riverwide," another song from The Globe Sessions, whose sales have not matched those of Crow’s second, more radio-friendly album, Sheryl Crow. Still, the majority of the show featured incredibly solid performances of tracks from the new album such as "Am I Getting Through (Part I & II)," whose screaming, vocally distorted chorus was aided by the projection of bright, white lights onto the audience that nearly blinded me but seemed to please all the young kids, who stood and writhed in its glow.
One of the concert’s highlights came early on in the set, when guitarist Stroud was let loose for "It Don’t Hurt," which he brought to a raging climax. Such extended solos would have been welcome on other songs as well, but Crow aimed for tightness and precision–which she achieved, with much help from both Stroud, whose guitar parts were flawless, and bassist/occasional rhythm guitarist Tim Smith, who also provided solid backup vocals. A small string section composed of a violinist and a cellist added subtle strength to some of Crow’s newer songs. Holding it all together, though, was Crow’s voice–raspy and earnest on slower numbers like "The Difficult Kind," strong and cool on rock and roll songs like "Members Only" and "Sweet Rosalyn"–always sexy as hell.
The postmodern moment of the night came at the end of Crow’s 75-minute set, during "There Goes The Neighborhood," when projector screens behind the band flashed images of cold and lonely suburban streets and the word "HOOD" while green lights from above transformed the stage into abackyard. Crow’s first encore was a bit disappointing, due in part to poor song selection. "Strong Enough," an acoustic ballad from her first album, sounded stale. "Mississippi," a song by Bob Dylan that
he gave to Crow to record for her third album, should have been given back to Bob. "Every Day Is A Winding Road" fell short of the version contained on the album.
Luckily, Crow re-appeared for a second encore, this time without her band. She sat down at the piano and performed a beautiful and captivating rendition of "Home," one of the highlights of her Sheryl Crow album and of that night’s show. A much-appreciative and fully satisfied audience stood and cheered as Crow exited the stage. After a final and failed attempt to get backstage and profess my eternal love to Sheryl, I walked out into the lobby to find the rest of my group. I searched for Matt Taylor to wish him a happy birthday, but he was nowhere to be found. Rumor has it he was spotted getting into a long, white limousine with Heidi Klum…