Monday, September 16, 2013

Sheryl Crow, Gary Allan concert review: Los Angeles

My review originally appeared at
Photos by Armando Brown

When some artists delve into country music after making their name in other genres, the results often sound forced.

Not so with Sheryl Crow, whose first such album – the appropriately titled Feels Like Home – came out last week.

She co-produced and co-wrote most of the songs. Zac Brown, Vince Gill and Ashley Monroe all supply backing vocals.

The project’s early motivator, Brad Paisley, played slide guitar and helped pen the outstanding countrypolitan weeper “Waterproof Mascara.” 

Half a dozen of those appealing new tunes were debuted at the Greek Theatre on Saturday. They all fit comfortably alongside her older material, so much of it already sweetened by pedal steel. 

Equally cozy was the stage d├ęcor: chandeliers and tapestry rugs, an antique couch and chairs used for an acoustic segment. Many fans sported Stetsons; one guy even wore a conductor’s hat with corncob pipe tucked inside. 

Following a brief career montage, the singer/guitarist and her six-piece band opened the 17-song, 85-minute set in Los Angeles with an extended “Steve McQueen.” Then the crowd sang along loudly to her first laid-back hit, “All I Wanna Do.” 

Several selections passed before the musicians hit their stride, although this second tour stop comes after a whirlwind week of promotional duties. They finally locked in amid the infectious groove of “My Favorite Mistake” – containing a fine Peter Stroud guitar solo – and the spirited new country-rocker “Shotgun.” 

Crow, now a Nashville resident, really belted out the Home ballad “Give It to Me.” She also had fun being positioned between Stroud and Audley Freed’s guitar tradeoffs on “Can’t Cry Anymore,” from her wildly successful 1993 debut, Tuesday Night Music Club. 

Yet the evening’s obvious highlight came during haunting 1996 tune “Redemption Day,” though Crow’s explanation of its anti-Iraq War sentiment and how Johnny Cash ended up recording his own version was interrupted by a heckler. Featuring the Man in Black’s vocals and archival footage of the legend projected on the backdrop wisely lent this live rendition some added gravitas. 

Later, Crow proved her mettle in other area: she provided wicked harmonica work for the feisty “Best of Times” and played bass on the ebullient “Soak Up the Sun,” during which several couples in the orchestra section were inspired to dance in the aisles again. 

Her co-headliner at the Greek experienced something of a homecoming Friday night. “I think everyone I went to school with is here today,” said Southern California native Gary Allan, who once lived in Huntington Beach and got signed to a record label after playing the old Crazy Horse Saloon in Santa Ana. 

This has been a banner year for the neo-traditionalist singer and guitarist.

In January, his exceptional ninth studio album, Set You Free, debuted atop the Billboard 200 chart; “Every Storm (Runs Out of Rain)” followed suit on the country singles tally.

Collaborating with female tunesmiths for the first time on “Free” has bred a new sense of optimism in his work. 

Armed with major lighting effects at the Griffith Park venue, Allan and his colorfully-attired seven-piece group (one of his two axe men wore an Irish kilt) whipped fans into a frenzy. Women constantly squealed at the hunky star; a bra was even tossed onstage. 

His potent 65-minute, 16-song performance was characterized by raucous songs like the racing opener “Tough Goodbye,” the chunky “Bones” and blaring “Man of Me”; sturdy hits such as “Man to Man,” playfully seductive “Nothing On But the Radio,” the lush “Smoke Rings in the Dark” and his romantic cover of Vertical Horizon’s “Best I Ever Had”; and some impassioned vocals, notably on the contemplative “It Ain’t the Whiskey” and the slide-guitar-infused “Every Storm.”

Set list: Sheryl Crow at the Greek Theatre
Main set: Steve McQueen / All I Wanna Do / Easy / Callin' Me When I'm Lonely / My Favorite Mistake / Shotgun / The First Cut Is the Deepest (Cat Stevens cover) / Give It to Me / Can't Cry Anymore / Crazy Ain't Original / Strong Enough / Redemption Day / Leaving Las Vegas / Best of Times / Picture > If It Makes You Happy / Soak Up the Sun
Encore: Everyday Is a Winding Road


Robert Kinsler said...

A very good review! Interesting to see how Sheryl and Gary have each grown as artists over the years.

Robert Kinsler said...

Very interesting to see how Sheryl Crow and Gary Allan's work has grown over the years. Thanks for the good review!