Sheryl Crow knows about unanticipated bends in the road. Last night at the
Who she was last night - in a show itself that was detoured from the
Crow set the tone from the outset opening with the ruminative, Mellencamp-flavored acoustic number "God Bless This Mess," protesting the Iraq war and its fallout in front of a large peace sign on a black backdrop. (If there were any dissenting opinions in the close-to-capacity crowd, they were inaudible.)
The evil that men do was a recurring theme even in the most upbeat songs. The slinky funk groove of "Gasoline" - which gave way to a few choruses of the Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter" - was juxtaposed with outrage over greed, and the bouncy plea for compassion in "Out of Our Heads" decried genocide. Which all sounds about as fun as a root canal, but Crow's fervor and skill at marrying the solemn with the tuneful serve her well as an artist.
That same interplay also appeared in Crow's personal songs, as she sang gorgeously of her emotional vulnerability during the acoustic charmer "Strong Enough" and the loping country rocker "Detours." She also dropped blue-sky optimism into the Stonesy "Can't Cry Anymore" with the refrain of "I Can See Clearly Now."
Good was the clear victor over evil last night, however, as tracks like "Love Is Free" and "Soak Up the Sun" offered cheerful singalong opportunities. As we made our way out to meet our deadline, Crow was lighting into the hopeful "Everyday Is a Winding Road," according to a friend left behind. She encored with the bubbly "All I Wanna Do" and closed with Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground."
James Blunt held down the middle slot with sweetly earnest energy, playing nearly an hour of his melodic, midtempo soft rockers, which have more bite live. "You're Beautiful" drew the biggest singalong, but Blunt also located the backbeat on several occasions, including the crisp "So Long Jimmy" and the lite funk of "1973."
Toots and the Maytals opened with a lively, well-received set of their soul-inflected reggae.