Sheryl Crow encored last night with the song that made her big back in ’93, “All I Want to Do,” a fitting return to the energized crowd, as the next line in the song goes, “is have some fun.”
For two hours Crow had fun on the stage of the Cumberland County Civic Center, smiling as she rocked the Portland crowd of 2,800. The audience was on its feet for Crow’s classics, and for some of the songs off her newly released “100 Miles from Memphis” album, as well.
Backed by her 10-person band, Crow’s latest sound came through loud and clear in concert: a big, rollicking, ’70s vibe dominated by horns and organ, strong guitar and plenty of funky wah-wah. Her reputation for running a tight show is obviously well-deserved.
She opened with “Our Love is Fading” from “100 Miles,” with a disco-ball-esque version of Robert Indiana’s LOVE sculpture revolving overhead (you know the one – the word “love” is in a block, and the “O” is tilted). Crow took the keyboard on the opening song, leaving it as she moved into “A Change Would Do You Good.”
Her energy started off a bit low, but grew over the two hours, peaking in the several songs ahead of the encore, and continuing strong into the encore itself.
She told the crowd she loved its “little town,” and said she wanted to live here. And in singing one of her top hits, “Strong Enough,” she gave clear specifications as to what she was looking for in a man: He runs an antique shop, drives a beat-up car, doesn’t mind raising a 3-year-old and a 4-month-old, and is vegan.
There’s probably a few who fit that bill in Maine
Crow played a number of songs from her new album, including the title track, “Eye to Eye,” “Our Love is Fading,” “Long Road Home,” Terrence Trent D’Arby’s “Sign Your Name,” the heavy-rotation “Summer Day,” and “Say What You Want.”
She displayed some of her famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) political inclination.
“I saw your rantin’ on TV today. I heard you tell me to reload,” the lyrics go, an obvious reference to former Alaskan governor and tea party fave Sarah Palin. “You got a lot of nerve to talk that way. Someone unplug the microphone.”
She also did a bang on version of the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back.” Note to Sheryl: If you ever get tired of singing your own stuff, you could make a living as a Michael Jackson impersonator. Really – scary good.
Highlights of the night include “Roses and Moonlight” from “100 Miles,” which featured a straight-outta-Motown-funk crescendo built on horns and heavy-caliber drums, with Crow alternating between go-go dancing on the upper riser and dominating the center stage.
Another show high point was Crow’s last song, a pared-down version of “I Shall Believe,” a gorgeous affirmation that’s almost spiritual in flavor and nature. The song climaxed with a stunning light show as drums and guitars jumped in, built on the organ’s foundation.
Brandi Carlile’s opening act was a definite bonus. Carlile, of Seattle, filled the civic center with her whiskey-voiced warble, feeding off the energy the crowd was throwing to her. She obviously has a strong and vocal fan base. And how cool is it that she plays flanked by twins Tim and Phil Hanseroth on lead and bass, two gangly look-alikes in snap-brim hats?
She belted out a number of her own songs, like “What Can I Say,” which has the plaintive chorus of “Time, time, ticking on me/Alone is the last place I wanted to be.” In “Again Today,” she laments how the “path of least resistance is catching up with me again today.”
Her set was a strong and solid 45 minutes, and included excellent takes on Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” and Alphaville’s “Forever Young.”
The Crow tour is set to appear at Foxwoods in Connecticut tomorrow, and heads to Europe in October.
Staff Writer Matt Wickenheiser can be contacted at 791-6316 or at: