There are few artists who’re better fitted for a lazy summer evening than Sheryl Crow. Her clear, distinctive voice rings effortlessly through a crowd and–just as important–her songs are devoid of any hidden agenda. She writes and sings in such an honest, straightforward manner that you don’t feel duped.
As the evening’s headliner Saturday at the Taste of Chicago, Crow was primed for the capacity crowd. Looking cool in the almost unbearable swelter, she sauntered onstage wearing a black T-shirt and tight madras slacks. As she strummed a maroon guitar, Crow launched into “Steve McQueen”–the same song she used to begin her set last summer at the Tweeter Center.
The sound at the Petrillo Music Shell is refreshingly good, and the technicians didn’t mess it up by amping the volume. You could hear the crisp guitar licks throughout the evening and Crow’s voice never got lost, even when the audience went nuts during the hits. And they were plentiful.
Halfway through the set, a fan wondered out loud, “What else is left to sing?” Trust me, she wasn’t lacking in choices from her set list, whether she was projecting laconic longing in “My Favorite Mistake” or bopping through the poppy “All I Wanna Do,” where she espouses the virtues of having fun.
And even when Crow tackled covers, she chose ones that fit her persona. Tom Petty’s “American Girl” goes perfectly with the spirit of who she is (as well as the Fourth of July theme).
Crow is a storyteller, whether she’s weaving a tale of hedonistic misfortune (“Leaving Las Vegas”), celebrating the virtues of a good wave (“Soak Up the Sun”) or challenging a potential suitor (“Strong Enough”).
She’s also quite adept at country. On songs such as “Picture,” she sounds more authentic than Faith Hill or Shania Twain in their latest efforts. Crow sings that duet with Kid Rock on record. Onstage, she traded verses with a member of her four-man backup band, who did a formidable job in remaining true to the spirit of Kid Rock’s awesome howling delivery.
There was an extra treat at this show. Standing stoically at stage right was a young woman clad head-to-toe in black. While the U.S. flag waved through the night, she signed Crow’s songs for any hearing-impaired fans in the audience. Was it rock ‘n’ roll for her to sign the lyrics to “If It Makes You Happy?” Not necessarily, but it was very American. And, it didn’t detract from the show at all.
Most of Crow’s onstage banter was peppered with some well- rehearsed rock ‘n’ roll patter. She told us she ate Carson’s ribs on the Fourth of July and she encouraged us to get up and “move your a–.”
She also expressed her distaste for the war with Iraq and encouraged everyone to register to vote. “The world is in chaos,” Crow said. “You need to vote.”
I’m not saying Crow’s not sincere, because I believe she is. So it was amusing that the voter registration booth, coincidentally, was right next to the vendors who were hawking her T-shirts.