News Column

Concert review: Sheryl Crow soaks Sands Steel Stage crowd with fun and musical fearlessness

August 6, 2014

By Jodi Duckett, The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.)



Aug. 06--Sheryl Crow may have gone country, but she's also pop and soul and rock 'n' roll and she blended it all seamlessly Monday night in a fun and musically outstanding concert at Sands Steel Stage at Musikfest.

Crow, a nine-time Grammy winner, has been at it since the early 1990s but she is no nostalgia act. While baby boomers flocked for the old hits like "All I Wanna Do," "Soak Up the Sun" and "If It Makes You Happy," Crow's new country album has earned her a new crop of fans and she focused heavily on the younger cowboy boots and hat crowd.

Crow seemed to be in a great mood, looking fit and fabulous and with an ear-to-ear smile. She talked a lot (including about Bethlehem), introduced songs and interacted with her smoking hot band, which included keyboards, Hammond B-3, drums (Fred Eltringham of West Chester), bass and two more guitars. Players subbed in other instruments, including upright bass, banjo and accordion for a fantastic sound. Cool video complementing the songs was projected on a four-paneled screen behind the band.

This was Crow's second show at Sands Steel Stage, and although the crowd -- 4,140 -- was smaller than her 2012 show of more than 6,000, this was a better show.

I think it was because of the new music. Crow's voice remains great and she has a big catalog of crowd-pleasing songs. But many of the concert's 20 songs were new -- clearly country -- although hearing them side by side with old songs made it clear that all her songs aren't so far apart in style. And Crow seemed energized by them.

Crow's hair flinging encore -- a searing version of Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll," something not too many women would tackle -- cemented her continuing status as a force in music of any genre.

Her opening number was just as interesting -- "Maybe Angels," not one of her biggest hits, but an older tune with a soulful style -- heavy on slide guitar and Crow's acoustic power.

Crow slid right into another soulful number, "A Change Would Do You Good," and made her first attempt to get the generally sedate crowd into action.

"I know it's Monday night. Tomorrow's Tuesday and of course Tuesday is the international party day, so you're supposed to go into work late tomorrow," she said.

Then came the first hit -- 21 years old -- the catchy "All I Wanna Do."

At the end of the song, as Crow fumbled to trade her guitar for a mike, she dropped her guitar, creating a lighthearted through line for the night.

"I'm just glad that wasn't a Martin guitar," she said, referring to the Upper Nazareth Township-based fine guitar maker that was part of the conversation throughout the concert. "Someone would be going home on a Greyhound tonight."

Crow connected with the crowd in that down-home country sort of way. She talked about the venue, recalling her visit two years ago, referring to the steel stacks and saying, "It feels strangely American here."

She introduced band members and talked about their day in the region. She said a number of them visited the Martin guitar factory and that she took her children to "Crystal Caverns," but it's not clear if she went to Crystal Cave near Kutztown or Lost River Caverns in Hellertown (neither venue could confirm that she was there).

Newer songs on the set list included "Give it to Me," "Best of Times" and "Shotgun" from her 2013 album "Feels like Home." "Shotgun," she said, came directly from a quote from her colorful, former trial attorney, 82-year-old rock band-playing dad, who said "You've got to drive that car like it's stolen and park it like it's rented."

Among the other highlights: a jammin' "Leaving Las Vegas" from her first album and her lovely ballad "Strong Enough," which ended with Crow huddled with three of her musicians in a rootsy quartet.

And truly memorable -- and I shouldn't have saved this for last -- was Crow's version of the Johnny Cash song "Redemption Day," which was part of a posthumous Cash album released in 2010. The performance included verses by Cash, whom she said was her friend, one verse sung together, and images of Cash projected on the screen backing the band. It was powerful.

jodi.duckett@mcall.com

610-820-6704

MORE MUSIKFEST ONLINE

-- Schedule of events

-- Photo galleries

-- Concert reviews

-- Performer interviews

http://www.mcall.com/musikfest

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