In a venue with an intimate feel that’s a perfect fit for the diminutive songstress, Sheryl Crow took to the stage last night for the first evening of her double date with Angelenos. It’s been almost 22 years to the day that her debut album “Tuesday Night Music Club” was released. Featuring the song that brought her to prominence, “All I Wanna Do”, this seemed to still be the mantra of both the band and the audience, as the crowd was definitely there to have some fun, but not only with Ms. Crow.
When opener Alex Cuba took to the stage, there were few empty seats in the house. It wasn’t surprising that given our culture here in L.A., Cuba was a big hit with the crowd. It’s not unusual to see a large portion of the audience at any venue show up after an opening act, but last night it was hard to tell how many were there for Cuba and how many were there for Sheryl Crow. His set consisted of songs which were sung completely in Spanish (with the exception of “Todo En La Vida”, which alternated between English and Spanish). During “Si Pero No” Cuba’s rapport with the audience was palpable when he asked the audience to sing along, which they did enthusiastically. At times his guitar playing had a George Benson-esque feel to it, and it felt great. It’s not always easy being anyone’s opening act, and Alex Cuba did a great job! I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of him.
When it was time for Crow to take the stage, the songstress did so without fanfare. With Sheryl Crow, you get what you see, you see what you get; catchy pop tunes, mixed with some straight-forward rockers, and a shot of country mixed in. Although her last album, 2013’s “Feels Like Home” didn’t garner the critical praise of earlier albums, it didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd.
Longtime band mate and Musical Director Peter Stroud, had his signature 65 amps behind him (spotting the 65 amps are a pastime of mine. They have great tone!). Seated behind the band was the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, led by Thomas Wilkins. This provided an element to the music that was both lush and moving at times. There’s nothing like having a full orchestra seated behind you to really add color and depth to one’s music. The orchestra wasn’t just used on one song for dramatic effect, it was used on eleven of her fourteen-songs set. To give you an idea of the level of musical talent involved here, Sheryl Crow co-wrote the score for the orchestral numbers with David Campbell, Composer, worked on it for weeks, and pulled it off with only one rehearsal. I think you can count on one hand the numbers of artists who can pull something like this off. This is talent, rare, and hardly-rivaled!
Opening with two songs from her Grammy-winning second album, “Maybe Angels” and “A Change Would Do You Good” she had the crowd engaged easily. Fighting a bad cold, she powered through her set without missing a beat or a note, the mark of a true professional. She even remarked at one point “it’s a snot-fest up here”. Props to Sheryl for being a true consummate performer and giving us her best.
Prior to launching into “Best Of Times” from her last album “Feels Like Home” she remarked that “our best days are in front of us” and then ripped into the number, showing us her chops on the harp and her new Nashville meets Los Angeles take on music. It was Country, it was Rock, and it was kick-ass, showing the audience that there’s a fine line between Country and Rock, and above all, good music is good music.
“Always On Your Side” was a poignant part of the set. Seated behind a grand piano, accompanied by just the orchestra, with a single spotlight, she cut quite a striking figure. Her voice, carried on the breeze, wafted over the crowd and sounded like she was sitting beside you. The Bowl has that effect…
The lighting, which was red most of the time seemed in direct opposition to the music giving an almost hellish visual element to the show. It provided an interesting juxtaposition with that flourescent crucifix looming just to the right of the stage. Maybe the lighting crew was trying to one-up them.
The last two numbers, “All I Wanna Do” and “If It Makes You Happy” brought the audience to their feet predictably. Crowd pleasing numbers but perhaps she should have played one of them a bit earlier in the set, as a few of the songs were a bit subdued and had the audience mostly seated, but then again, The Bowl is a unique venue where one can just sit back and enjoy the night air and the music without having to stand throughout.
Overall, a great night and a very intimate time with Sheryl and a few thousand of her closest fans. And with the weather this weekend being surprisingly perfect for an August show, you still have another chance to see her tonight. If you haven’t already bought tickets, there are still some great seats available for tonight’s show.