I was in Boston this week for business and had the opportunity to see Sheryl Crow live at the very nice Bank of America Pavilion in Boston. It was a beautiful evening and the chance to see a show outdoors at night was great. The seemingly largely female audience was entertained by James “You’re Beautiful” Blunt and legendary Reggae/Ska act Toots and the Maytals. Overlong dinner plans caused the group I was with to miss all of Toots’s show and mercifully most of Blunt’s show. I did get to hear “Beautiful” as well as his newer single “1973” which seemed unexpectedly full of energy for the weepy folkster. He was standing on his piano and running through the audience. BTW: “1973” quotes “I Can See Clearly Now” which Crow drops in a song later in the evening.
In a fashion similar to the Detours album, Sheryl opened the set with a solo acoustic performance of “God Bless This Mess.” The band joined and provided a rocking set of Sheryl’s catalog– covering a good balance of her big hits and songs from her new album.
Admittedly, I was a bit skeptical about this show. I knew she put on a good live show but her last two albums– the country influenced Wildflowers and her latest Detours which is a personal account of the last three years of her life– have been a departure from her typical releases and certainly from the sunkissed C’mon C’mon. I had downloaded her last two albums but never really got past a cursory listen.
Any reservations I had about the show were cast away as Sheryl and band started working the stage. She was clearly enjoying herself and the crowd was returning the positive vibe she was delivering. My wife thinks that most men are only fans of Sheryl because they want to sleep with her. While I agree that Sheryl is holding up very well for 46, she is a very confident live performer that delivers as entertaining a live show as I have seen with any seasoned live act. In fact, it occurred to me watching the show that her no-nonsense blend of American rock reminded me of Tom Petty’s live shows.
I was pretty impressed with her (and her band’s) ability to carry off some covers and cover teases. It is with a knowing wink that they carried the bluesy Fender Rhodes and bongos driven “Gasoline” from Detours into “Gimme Shelter.” Her tease of Gary Wright’s “Love is Alive” in “There Goes The Neighborhood” was unexpected (at least by me, I don’t know if she does this at every show) and appreciated. The cover of “Higher Ground” by Stevie Wonder was very good and a fun way to wrap up the encore.
The hits were mostly in attendance: “Leaving Los Vegas,” “Strong Enough,” “My Favorite Mistake,” “If It Makes You Happy,” “Soak Up The Sun,” “Everyday Is A Winding Road,” and “All I Wanna Do” enough to keep some of the others in my group who weren’t as familiar with Sheryl’s catalog happy and they commented about how surprised they were that they knew so many songs.
She performed no less than six songs from her new album, and they fit in very well alongside her very intimidating run of hits since 1994. Before performing the title track of this year’s Detours Sheryl made reference to her recent life-altering events by saying that “it’s the detours that really teach you about who you are.”
On the flight home from Boston I decided to give Detours another listen. At times its honesty is a bit shocking and not at all what I expected. The brave portrayal of raw emotion in songs like “Diamond Ring,” “Make It Go Away (Radiation Song),” and “Lullaby For Wyatt” actually reminds me of John Lennon’s laid-bare biographical approach to songwriting during his solo career. The album and likely this tour is a cathartic exercise for Sheryl and one she evidently needed. This show and review of her latest album changes Sheryl for me from the “beer-drinking in the morning party girl” to a woman who is bravely sharing a close look at herself at a time of change. It will be interesting to see what is next.
Setlist (thanks to the boards at sherylcrow.com)
God Bless This Mess
Shine Over Babylon
Love Is Free
Leaving Los Vegas
Can’t Cry Anymore (including I Can See Clearly)
My Favorite Mistake
Gasoline (Gimme Shelter)
There Goes The Neighborhood (including Love Is Alive)
Out of Our Heads
If It Makes You Happy
Soak Up The Sun
Everyday Is A Winding Road
All I Wanna Do
Click Here for my flickr photoset of the show with more pictures
Click Here for Sheryl Crow’s Website