There's a rush onto the stage as the lights dim. No fancy intro music. No introduction. Just six musicians led by Sheryl Crow and launching straight into Maybe Angels. It's the start of a buzzing, blazing two hour performance underpinning this lady's right to be regarded as a modern day giant. Crow draws from country rock, folk, southern rock, americana and AOR, melding all these influences into a seamless coterie of charismatic Crow combustion.
Sheryl Crowe, live in London
Venue: Royal Albert Hall, London
Sheryl Crow latest album swings towards Country, but she rocks at Bluesfest
There's a tireless energy about this lady, and she's comfortable whether strumming on a guitar, or slinging the instrument round to her back and grabbing the microphone. She's also not afraid to take the piss out of herself. This comes across when mention is made of her three engagements, none of which led to marriage. “But I had a great time not getting married,” she japes. And after delivering a sparking cover of The First Cut Is The Deepest, Crow informs us all about how she met Cat Stevens not so long ago, after a late night phone call from Holly Williams, Hank Williams' granddaughter. “So, I threw on some clothes and went to the studio to meet him. Well, I'm a rock star and we're supposed to do that sort of thing!”
While the entire night is ebullient and uplifting, there are some real standout, incandescent moments. The first happens at the climax to Best Of Times when, flanked by four guitars, Crow blows up a sensational harmonica performance. It's pure southern blues mania. And the main set finishes with Everyday Is A Winding Road, during which the band pay their respects to the late Jack Bruce by injecting in a sliver from Sunshine Of Your Love. And the whole night concludes with Zeppelin's Rock And Roll, done with a tasteful realignment towards Sheryl Crow's own strengths.
But the unquestioned highlight comes with Redemption Day. This was beautifully covered by Johnny Cash just before he died, and using his recorded version Crow memorably duets with the great man, as the screen behind her is lit up with footage of Cash. It's a presentation that's moving and articulate, invested with the touch of dreams.
Sheryl Crow's recent album, Feels Like Home, has moved her more towards a country regimen. But this performance is a skilful, seismic reminder that she's a peerless rocker.