Radiant in a white vest and jeans, Sheryl Crow was in great form at the Santa Barbara Bowl on Thursday night, showing everyone just how magnetic and appealing she can be, especially in front of an adoring and energetic crowd. The generous set mixed Crow’s huge ’90s hits with songs from her impressive 2008 album Detours.
The record and tour find Crow at a moment of personal regeneration, having weathered a sequence of storms, personal and public, that have left her stronger, happier, and healthier, but with an added sense of urgency to her songwriting and performing. Although at times it can be hard to see behind the polished surface that Crow presents in concert, the glow she gives off today stems as much from an inner fire-for politics, for the future of her child, and for life-as it does from her still amazing outward vitality and sex appeal.
Employing the entire range of classic rock sonic effects, her eight-piece band more than kept pace with their leader. The new song “Gasoline” rumbled right into “just a shot away, kiss away” from the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” and then back again-just the kind of mash-up that kept Crow’s fans dancing all night. In addition to helping her rock out, as on “Out of Our Heads” and the big hits, drummer Wally Ingram and bass player Jon Button locked the entire set into one long groove and decorated it with all kinds of interesting textures.
Even if the ’60s references to Hendrix (on “Heads”) and the Stones were calculated to appeal to her demographic, proving that there’s still something to the idea that Crow’s job is to not only get that kind of music out there again, but to get it right, Crow has made a new commitment to the things that matter to her, and the soundtrack of that commitment is the music of her influences. By the time she and the band plunged into Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground” as an encore, the connection between this fervent Obama supporter and the generation of “protest” singers and other rock stars that came before her felt stronger than ever.