FAN REVIEW - FM106.1 Toys for Tots benefit concert (by Alan/BDS)

Milwaukee, Riverside Review
Alan Semrow

Last night, I had the wonderful opportunity to see Sheryl at the Riverside Theater in Milwaukee. It’s a gorgeous, relatively intimate venue and I think it was really fitting atmosphere for her tunes. The acoustics were heavenly and I had a total blast.

The opening act was a band called The Familiar Looking Strangers. Usually, I just opening acts the thing that’s keeping me from viewing what I paid to see. This time, that wasn’t so much the case. The UK band stunned me. They’re weren’t quite country, but, like Sheryl, were a little bit of everything. In fact, they’re style really reminded me of the tone on Sheryl’s eponymous album and The Globe Sessions. Lots of organ, lots of guitar, lots of soul. Very, very cool. I wouldn’t be surprised if these gentlemen broke through in the US. They were just that good. And the lead singer really made me chuckle because of his heavy, heavy accent. I couldn’t understand a word he was saying when he spoke to us, but, when he sang, I felt at home.

Then Sheryl came out. It’s always an incredibly surreal thing for me when she enters the stage. I’ve been following her for years and years and years now and know the lyrics to even the B-sides. Her music’s been there for me during the good times and the bad times (no pun intended: “The Best of Times). So she entered like her down-to-earth self and started playing “Steve McQueen.” Her vocals were impeccable and I also wanted to note that she doesn’t use the vocal distortion anymore for the part where she sings, “We got rockstars in the white house and all our popstars look like porn…” For a while, they actually just played the album snippet of that part and then she mouthed along. Not the case now, though, which made it much more raw.

Did I mention that her vocals were impeccable? I mean, maybe this is just beating a dead horse now, but they were really, really great last night. Sometimes, you can tell that she’s a little tired. Well, that wasn’t the case last night.

Also, I need to go on a quick rant right now. I had one problem with the concert and it has nothing to do with Sheryl, the band, or the venue. It has to do with the audience. Now, I’m 22 years old, so when I go to a Sheryl concert, me and whoever I’ve gotten to come with me are always the youngest people in the room. I’m fine with that, but I’m not fine with the fact that the entire audience sits for almost the entire show. Everyone stood when she came out and played the opening chords to “Steve McQueen.” By the second verse, though, they were all seated. I was on the first floor in the venue and fairly close, which means there were plenty of people behind me. They didn’t so much like it when I stood for “My Favorite Mistake,” “Soak Up the Sun,” and “Can’t Cry Anymore.” In fact, when I stood for “Strong Enough,” several people behind me yelled and told me to sit down. All I have to say to that is: what the fuck? I mean, seriously, Sheryl Crow is someone who has really made a name in this industry. She’s incredibly popular and is not just some up-and-comer. I think it’s pretty disrespectful that people do not stand and dance along. It’s not like this is some folky, slow concert. Her tunes are uptempo and rockin.’ It's a frickin' rock concert! So I don’t understand why people sit. And this isn’t the first time this has happened. Afterwards, my friend actually told me, “I’ve never experienced that when everyone sits for an entire rock concert.” Frankly, it pisses me off and, frankly, I wish I would have given those audience members who told me to sit down the middle finger, because I don’t see it as me being disrespectful by standing. I see it as disrespectful by not standing and singing and dancing along.

End rant.

After “Steve,” Sheryl played “All I Wanna Do.” This version’s got a little more twang and country influence in it, which I really got into. Sheryl then played “Easy” and “Callin’ Me When I’m Lonely.” Great vocals, though, I think I was the only person singing along to every verse throughout the concert. I’m pretty positive I was her biggest fan in the room last night. Then came “My Favorite Mistake.” This is my favorite single by her and so it meant a lot to me to be like the only person in the room standing for it. “Shotgun” followed and people really dug it. I think this should probably be a third single. Followed by that was “The First Cut” and “Give It To Me.” The girls next to me were a little bit older, but I noticed that they really got into “Give It To Me.” They were throwing their hands up and everything, which made me smile, because I presume that a lot of people in that room last night were not as familiar with Feels Like Home as I am.

Then came “Can’t Cry Anymore.” I noticed through the years that this song, in concert, becomes more and more rockin’. Last night, this was definitely the case. I was pounding my foot and everything. In the middle of the song, Sheryl and the band have a few lines of a break and then the song explodes. It was brilliant. At the end of the song, Sheryl tried her best to get into Mariah Carrey range and do the dolphin thing. She hit the notes!

The acoustic set followed. They played “Crazy Ain’t Original,” “Strong Enough,” and then “Redemption Day.” Just as the past few concerts have been going, Sheryl introduced “Redemption Day” by talking about Johnny Cash and how he recorded the song. She didn’t tell us that it was going to be a duets of sorts, but then, on the second verse, Johnny’s voice shined through and everyone applauded. The song got a standing ovation. It was heartbreaking and beautiful.

“Soak Up the Sun” followed. Honestly, it’s my least favorite single, but, of course, I stood and danced along. Once those chords started, the crowd began to pick up the momentum just a little bit. “Best of Times” followed. Sheryl rightfully got a standing ovation on that one with her harmonica solo. People ate that shit up. It was awesome.

Then came the “Picture”/”If It Makes You Happy” combo. I’m going to be honest here. I prefer “If It Makes You Happy” as its own entity. It’s one of those songs that usually gets people out of their seats for a verse or so, but that wasn’t the case last night. “If It Makes You Happy” is such an anthem and those opening chords are so memorable and I just don’t like it being combined with “Picture,” a slower song. I digress, though. The vocals were great.

People finally stood when “Everyday Is a Winding Road” started. Unfortunately, this was the final song of the set. Once everyone got on their feet, I felt a small sense of community and it was cool. It kind of felt like the party that I think Sheryl concerts should feel like.

The encore included “Waterproof Mascara,” probably my favorite song from FLH. It was beautiful, truly great. She got a standing ovation for that one. “Run Run Rudolph” surprisingly followed. Everyone danced along to that one until Sheryl and the band exited.

The friend that came with me to the concert is a hardcore country fan. She’s always liked Sheryl, but hasn’t ever liked her enough to put her songs on her IPod. So, on the way to the car after the show, I asked her, “So did this concert change your view of Sheryl?”

And she smiled and said, “Oh, yeah. That was rockin.’ I’m going to be listening to her music for a month straight.”

It was a lovely concert and Sheryl and the band really shined. This is the fourth time I’ve seen her and, I’ll tell you, every time, it’s a new experience. I gain something new; I develop even more respect for her. She’s a true master.

I just wish people would give her some damn respect and stand!!!!

Set List:
All I Wanna Do
First Cut
Give It To Me
Can’t Cry
Crazy Ain’t Original
Strong Enough
Redemption Day (ft. Johnny Cash)
Best of Times
Winding Road

Waterproof Mascara
Run, Run Rudolph


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