LIVE REVIEW - Naples, Florida - 17 February

Sheryl Crow delivers strong show, tight music in Naples

One of many reasons to love Sheryl Crow: While other female stars slip into new costumes between numbers, she’s more worried about changing her guitars.

Crow has a wall full of them at home, and her idea of a prize for one of her Fan Forum contests was a Fender Stratocaster. She backs herself with pros like Peter Stroud and Audley Freed (formerly of the Black Crowes), who can both solo exquisitely and build the best sound behind other players. And at the Philharmonic Center for the Arts Sunday night she traded instruments for every song.

Another reason to love Crow was the power show she delivered, drawing a nailed-to-the-seat audience to its feet by the first end at 9:48 to sway upright to “Soak Up the Sun.” The group encored with another Crow hit, “Everyday Is a Winding Road.”

Old favorites like “My Favorite Mistake” were spun into a set with “Easy,” a piece of ear candy for from her upcoming disc, and Cat Stevens’ “The First Cut.”

Crowe played to a soldout house with a band that included Wallflowers alum Fred Eltringham on drums; Robert Kearns, a one-time Lynyrd Skynyrd bassist; and pedal steel virtuoso Josh Grange. Grange also set a Hammond B-3 burbling richly behind selected tunes.

The largest part of the evening was vintage Crow, moving from “Strong Enough” to “Steve McQueen” before swinging into her breakout hit, “All I Wanna Do.” Its amused ruminations on barflies and corporate minions, floating around of indie stations in New York in ’93, drove this writer to mail order a — whew — cassette of Crow as a new Texas sensation.

That would make her how old? “Fifty-one,” she told the crowd cheerfully, calling 10:30 “the middle of the night” now, particularly with her two adopted children, ages 2 and 5, on the tour bus.

Crow traded easy banter with the audience between some of the songs, revealing a down-to-earth persona for the few fans who didn’t know that about her already:

-- Recalling guest star Holly Williams had once pulled her out of bed to join Williams and Cat Stevens, now known as Yusuf Islam, for dinner in Nashville. No shrinking violet, Crow asked the songwriter, who had retired after his conversion to Islam, “What happened?”

-- Apologizing for chewing gum throughout the show. “I was raised in the South, and I was taught that chewing gum is just rude,” she declared. But it keeps her throat moist for singing, and no one in this crowd was about to complain about that.

--Admitting she was confusing Naples with Fort Lauderdale as she swings through a five-venue tour of Florida.

That could have been just as easy for her fans. Some of them hadn’t been able to get into soldout performances in Tampa and Sarasota and had driven to Naples for the show.

Those fans got the treat of seeing Crow play favorites like “A Change,” “Give It to Me,” “Shotgun,” “If It Makes You Happy” and “Home,” a poignant tale of dying love hidden under a rock rhythm. Crow, who eventually shed black, pink and white crystal-bedecked jacket, was a sylph in a black tank top and filigree-trimmed black slacks. And at no time was she more so than singing for two numbers with Williams, a weed of a blonde, close to 6 feet tall in jeans and boots.

Williams is the granddaughter of Hank, and her Americana roots brought thoughtful songs like “Giving Up,” the lament of a family held prisoner by alcohol, and the sweet “Waiting on June.” June was the singer’s grandmother on her mother’s side, whose welcoming Louisiana farm was a formative mecca in her life.

She played a strong set of her own work, with her husband, Chris Coleman, playing a jack-of-all-trades second guitar. Annie Clements provided formidable electronic standup bass.

Williams’ new disc, “The Highway” would be worth repeated listenings even if it didn’t have personnel such as Jackson Browne and Gwyneth Paltrow as backups. “Gone Away from Me” is guaranteed to bring tears to the stonehearted.

Harriet Howard Heithaus writes about classical music and dance for the Naples Daily News, but believes every day with both Chopin and Led Zeppelin is a good one. Did you attend the Sheryl Crow concert? Send your photos; we got a warning about our camera and put it away.


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