Sheryl Crow performing her Feels Like Home tour at The Royal Concert Hall Nottingham on Wednesday 29th October 2014

Images and Review by Kevin Cooper

Sheryl Crow’s breakthrough single All I Wanna Do coaxed lapsed record buyers back into Woolworths in late 1994, baiting the hook with sweet pedal steel and appealingly fuzzy bar room ramblings.

In the two decades since, she has had her ups and downs; her successful battle with breast cancer, a brain tumour, thankfully benign, plus a string of failed relationships with high profile lovers like Eric Clapton, actor Owen Wilson and a particularly painful engagement to disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong. So given that she has the material to give a more oblique view of life, I was interested to see what this concert would be all about.

The word from America, underscored by her most recent album, Feels Like Home, was that the 52 year old Missouri born Sheryl, has returned to her country roots, settling in Nashville with her two adopted sons to write more introspective and melancholic music. So I had anticipated an evening of country music with lyrics that are sometimes less than cheerful.

But I was pleasantly surprised. This tiny, diminutive lady exploded onto the stage with her six strong backing band who certainly looked the part; resembling a bean pole version of the Flying Burrito Brothers, and who took their role very seriously. And despite the critical and commercial success of Feels Like Home, Sheryl only included a couple of tracks, preferring to charge through her back catalogue of pop rock. After opening with Maybe Angels followed by A Change Would Do You Good, she went straight into that signature song, All I Wanna Do, happy to lead her adoring audience into a sing a long chorus.

Easy, a slow paced cut from the new album, provided an insight into the storyteller that Sheryl can be, but the mood didn’t last long as she blasted back with Real Gone, a song featured in the Pixar Movie, Cars, and which she admitted was the one song of hers very familiar to her young sons, and a new song The Best Of Times showcased her absolute brilliance on the harmonica.

There was barely a lull in the crammed two hour show.   There were covers too; her version of Cat Steven’s The First Cut Is The Deepest, a song that helped buoy the sales of her greatest hits collection, was rapturously received, and she encored with a relatively unrestrained rendition of Led Zeppelin’s Rock And Roll that wrapped up a brilliant night. There were also a couple of other instantly recognisable hits; If It Makes You Happy and Every Day Is A Winding Road both of which had the audience to their feet and singing along.

Crow herself seemed energised and focused, able to command the spotlight and conduct yet another audience sing along with Can’t Cry Anymore before melting into the backline of her band to add the piano to an extended outro for My Favourite Mistake; whilst Soak Up The Sun showcased her skill playing her 5-string bass guitar.

Whilst very good, there were a couple of mistakes from her brilliant backing band, as twice she was obliged to shout “welcome to the rehearsal”, as they missed their keys and cues. But they were entertaining, raw and edgy, and I prefer that to the sanitised performances that I have seen in the past from one of her old flames.

There was no doubt that this audience had been entertained tonight; it was a carefully calibrated performance from Crow; one that earned her a standing ovation. But to be honest, it also felt like a ride on the bonnet of a gleaming juggernaut when there might be more interesting things going on under the head. To make up my mind I might just have to go and see her again; it’s a hard life.