Sheryl Crow’s fourth album, “C’mon C’mon” (A&M/Interscope), is the latest chapter in her transformation from an intriguing singer-songwriter into a aerobicized pop tart ready to grace the cover of Maxim, FHM or the cleavage-friendly Rolling Stone. But her live show brings to mind yet another magazine, Lucky — professionally mounted, perfectly styled, buffed to an appealing sheen, but almost completely devoid of content.
The songs are all neatly accessorized with retro elements — the Steve Miller-ish “whoo whoo’s” during the chorus of “Steve McQueen,” the AC/DC guitar crunch that kicks off the verses on “You’re an Original,” the early ’70s Rolling Stones/Faces strut of “Lucky Kid’s” central riff. She has become more a composer of moments than of fully realized songs.
Crow manages to get those moments over, but they don’t add up to much. The band performs with a dispassionate proficiency, more like session players who just learned their parts than a unit that has been together for years. They only really cohered during a cover of the Who’s “I Can’t Explain.” Peter Stroud tried to fire things up, but you got the feeling he was there because he resembles Jimmy Page and not because he plays like Led Zeppelin’s former guitarist.
Crow, something of an emotional cipher onstage, isn’t much help. Nothing seems to pierce her emotional reserve. She returns to the stage for the encore, looking great in a leather bustier and red, white and blue fringe, but her performance, juxtaposing “Safe and Sound” (a ballad she sang for 9/11 commemoration) and a cover of Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll,” could have been jarring. But since she evinced little emotional investment in either tune, the songs’ whiplash contrast had no more depth than outfits in a fashion spread.