Singer/songwriter Sheryl Crow’s music boasts a subtle yet powerful quality that’s often lacking in similar artists — the undeniable voice of experience. Her tales of struggle, devotion, heartbreak, faith and exploitation are frosted with a thick layer of affecting knowledge and rough-edged smarts that serve to seperate the 30-year-old from the blues/rock pack — a slacker Bonnie Raitt, if you will.
And it’s Raitt to whom Crow is most often compared, both vocally and stylistically. But if Crow’s St. Louis blues approximates Raitt’s world-weary, survivor blues on her A&M debut, “Tuesday Night Music Club,” the similarities are lost once Crow hits the stage.
In concert, she strips away the usual folk trappings, injecting an unexpected fire and muscle that adds color and dynamic intensity to her songs. And credit her fine four-piece backing band, in particular creative drummer Wally Ingram, for providing the desired backbone to Crow’s vision.
Highlights of the 80-minute show were many and disappointments few. Opener “Can’t Cry Anymore” was the first sign that Crow planned to take the recorded versions of her songs and elevate them to a point were they became vivid pictures in the minds of her audience (which, unfortunately, was mostly comprised of cross-armed record company staffers).
In “Leaving Las Vegas,” her confidence beamed as she sang “Used to be I could drive up to Barstow for the night, find some crossroad trucker to demonstrate his might.” Her brash yet waifish demeanor and confident mental stance gave her words added meaning, creating an elaborate vision for the listener.
Other bright spots included the tasty, hard-hitting blues of “The Na Na Song, ” the uplifting “I Shall Believe,” the poignant and ironic “What I Can Do For You” and new song “Love Is a Good Thing.”
The only down spots were a nearly unrecognizable take on the Rolling Stones’ “Happy” and a sloppily rearranged version of recent single “Run Baby Run.” Crow was joined by Don Henley, with whom she’s previously collaborated, for an encore of the pretty “No One Said It Would Be Easy.”
In the seven years since Crow quit her Missouri teaching job, she’s developed a reputation as one of the most talented session singers in Los Angeles. But it’s as a solo performer and as a songwriter that she’s most suited and it’s in those arenas that we can expect to hear many exciting revelations from this gifted and important artist.