Mon 8 September 2014

[LIVE REVIEW + PIX] Grand Rapids, Michigan - 7 September

Sheryl Crow closes Meijer Gardens summer series with smiles, hits and plenty of fun

by Tricia Woolfenden and John Sinkevics

Crow’s return to the outdoor amphitheater impresses a sold-out crowd and proves she’s now a darling of the popular series, which set records this year for overall attendance.

If all Sheryl Crow wants to do is have some fun, then she picked a pretty good night, a pretty good crowd and a pretty good venue to do just that.

Sunday night’s season-ending concert in the sold-out amphitheater at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park proved to be a whole lot of fun for 1,900-some fans who probably wish it really could have lasted “until the sun comes up” as Crow insisted during the third song of the night, “All I Wanna Do.”

Instead, wearing a broad grin, the singer and her six-piece band delivered a 105-minute set that was long on hits after starting the evening with the rock-hued “Maybe Angels” and “A Change Would Do You Good.”

It’s probably safe to say Crow can be counted among the darlings of the popular summer concert series. The singer-songwriter returned to play the amphitheater for the second year in a row, this time closing out the uber-successful, 30-concert 2014 series — which boasted more than two dozen sellouts — with her trademark down-to-Earth stage demeanor.

She conceded early on that it made her “kind of sad” to be playing Meijer Gardens’ last show of the summer, but joked that fans were probably going to “get liquored up and take some pictures with the sculptures” to commemorate the occasion.

Crow, 52, certainly has a way with an audience, not to mention a voice that’s as strong and versatile as it’s ever been.

The nine-time-Grammy-winning artist aims to please, loading her set list with tried-and-true radio-friendly hits, a la, “Picture,” “Anything But Down,” “If It Makes You Happy,” “Strong Enough,” et al. But if Crow is remotely bored with singing these (sometimes) decades-old songs, she has the grace to pretend otherwise and the skill to pull it off.


She wants her fans to have a good time and if that means belting out the chorus for “Soak Up the Sun” for the thousandth time or once again closing a show with “Every Day is a Winding Road,” then so be it.

Blues-rock phenom Shannon Curfman, who also opened for Kid Rock at the Allegan County Fair on Saturday night and plays in Kid Rock’s band, got the night started with a crowd-pleasing set of her own songs and some covers (The Band’s “The Weight,” Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well”), then later joined joined Crow onstage to play guitar on “If It Makes You Happy.”

As for Crow, the seasoned performer played it safe on Sunday, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t switch things up a bit from her last Grand Rapids’ outing. While the concert covered familiar ground, Crow’s delivery has been tweaked in recent years, with meatier shades of country twang adding a new flavor to those well-worn pop hits.

This stylistic shift is keeping in line with Crow’s musical leanings as of late, including her so-called country album, “Feels Like Home” (2013). When introducing “Redemption Day” (from her self-titled 1996 release) Crow quipped that while her current record has been marketed as “country,” she’s baffled by the modern meaning of the term.

She then relayed how “Redemption Day” came to be discovered and recorded by a bona fide master of the genre: Johnny Cash. Crow proceeded with a rendition of the anti-war song that interwove her live vocals with snippets of Cash’s own version, which was recored in 2003 and later appeared on the 2010 posthumous release “American VI: Ain’t No Grave.”

As Crow and Cash sang of the high cost of violence and the hope for a world without, images of Cash and scenes of war were projected onto a large screen at the rear of the stage.

Such “duets” between the living and deceased can, when handled poorly, feel exploitative and downright icky (see many examples from the early 2000s for evidence of this oft-dicey trend). This, however, was a well-executed tribute to an artistic family with whom Crow has a sincere connection.

It made for the most interesting and risky moment in what otherwise was a predictably well-performed and well-received evening of pleasant rock … and a heckuva fun way to end the summer.



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