Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Concert Review: Sheryl Crow At MTS Centre, Winnipeg, MB, 09/27/2008

Around 9 pm, the lights went down inside the MTS Centre, Winnipeg's main concert venue, and taped music of Johnny Nash's "I Can See Clearly Now" was played for a few minutes before the headliners took to the stage. I had an excellent view from the third row on the floor and some of the people around erupted in excitement as they spotted the band members climb the stairs to the stage, from the side, partly obscured by the curtains.

Suddenly, there was someone with long, curly blond hair walking on and with the stage still in darkness, Sheryl Crow (46) strapped on an acoustic guitar and began playing a bitter-sweet slow number that referenced 9/11 and the lies that led to the war in Iraq. It was "God Bless This Mess," from her new album, Detours. A giant peace symbol was projected on the curtains for maximum effect, in case you didn't get what the song was about or what helped inspire some of the new disc.

After that number, the curtains fell down and revealed the backing band, which was comprised of a percussionist with a drum kit, a drummer, a bassist, a lead guitarist, a mandolin/ acoustic guitarist, a keyboard player, and two back-up singers. They were tight and sounded good. Crow mistakenly mentioned that it was Friday night and had tomorrow as a bonus. She asked the audience whether or not she had played Winnipeg before. She joked that they were nodding yes but saying no.In fact, she played a rural festival in 1996.

She spoke about watching the debate between the two Presidential candidates yesterday, on their day off, and moaned about how messed up the US was as a result of Bush. She then played another new song, "Shine Over Babylon." Crow supports the US Democratic party. She performed at their convention this summer and in 2007, she famously got into a heated exchange with Republican brain trust Karl Rove at the White House's annual Correspondent's Dinner, over global warming.

Before introducing another new song, she also mentioned how she was engaged and then not, was diagnosed with breast cancer, but beat it. Crow asked the audience if they read the tabloids and wondered why people were famous for being famous and mentioned quickly Paris Hilton before breaking into "Motivation," another new song.

There was also a green bent to one of her songs, an apocalyptic tune from the future about the long past year 2017 and the gasoline crisis, called "Gasoline." Crow is quite the political, social, and environmental activist, sort of like a female Bono. She plans on donating $1 from every ticket sold on the 2008 tour to the United Nations World Food Programme. The audience wanted to hear her best-known songs and they were not disappointed with "The First Cut Is The Deepest," "Leaving Las Vegas," "If It Makes You Happy," "Everyday Is A Winding Road," "A Change Would Do You Good," and "Soak Up The Sun." "All I Wanna Do" and Led Zeppelin's "Rock And Roll" were saved for the encore.

Curiously, she utilized snippets of a couple of songs in the show. "Gimmie Shelter" by the Rolling Stones crept into "Gasoline," Aerosmith's "Walk This Way" and early in the show, Johnny Nash's 1972 hit, "I Can See Clearly Now," which she made into a sing-along.

Sheryl Crow flashes her pearly whites an awful lot, and she smiles and sings a great deal. Bob Dylan doesn't smile when he sings. Crow is the master of it. Her vocals were always spot on. Whether she sang in whispered "come hither" tones or from the bottom of lungs in the rockier tunes, her voiced seemed to be beautiful and flawless.

This was the second time that I've seen Blue Rodeo front man Jim Cuddy open for someone at the MTS Centre. The last time he opened, it was for John Forgerty in 2007.

Cuddy is an excellent singer and storyteller. He looks sincere and passionate, unlike the cold, distant Oasis singer, Liam Gallagher. Some of the songs they played were good, but some were forgettable sound-alikes. Cuddy's weakness lies not in his singing, stage presence, strength of his or the band's musicianship, or his lyrics. The weakness lies with the sameness of the songs. He and his band make for a good opening act, but I wouldn't go out of my way to see them headline. The highlight of his show was when the band played extended songs and did some jamming. His fiddle player, Anne Lindsay, put on a volcanic performance that brought considerable applause when she was finished.

Attendence was 6000 and my rating for this show is 3.5/5.


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