For a pop star with any ambition, headlining the Hollywood Bowl has to be the fulfillment of a fantasy, but Sheryl Crow filled fewer than half the seats Sunday night. It’s not that Crow has lost commercial clout — the recently released “Wildflower” (A&M) entered the charts in the top 10. Her engagement to Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong has also put her personal life in the news. But the album features some of the most introspective music of her career and that mood bled into the live show.
“Wildflower” is studiedly gorgeous, as if every note was worried over, polished and repolished, and tweaked to within an inch of its life. It lacks a tune with the engaging, tousled sensuality of hits such as “All I Wanna Do” or “Everyday Is a Winding Road.” On top of that, Crow seemed distracted and spacey all evening.
Sunday, the music — old tunes like “Favorite Mistake” and “If It Makes You Happy,” too — settled into a midtempo gait and remained there. With her touring band augmented by a 13-piece string section (arranged and conducted by David Campbell), the sound was full but stiff and monochromatic. They were only effective on a few songs: adding some Appalachian life to “Mississippi,” Motown-styled bounciness to “Live It Up” and a chunky Paul Buckmaster surge to “Always on Your Side.” Mostly, they draped the band, adding mass but little heft and weighing down the music.
Some of the problems could perhaps be attributed to the venue. The Bowl is the biggest room she’s playing, and the show probably plays better in a more intimate space.