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Sheryl Crow @ The Riverside Theater

Dec. 5, 2013

Dec. 6, 2013
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sheryl crow riverside theater milwaukee 2013
Photo credit: Melissa Miller
Chances are, if you’ve been conscious during the last 15 years or so, you’ve heard a Sheryl Crow song. In fact, you’ve probably heard more than one—Crow is the Grammy-winning writer of such modern pop radio staples as “Soak Up the Sun” and “All I Wanna Do”—but she’s also something of a musical chameleon, moving from a pop-rock sound in the late ’90s to a more roots-based approach in the past few years. In her nearly two-hour set at the Riverside Theater on Thursday, she brought a mix of old favorites and new songs to a warm Milwaukee crowd on a cold night.

Crow’s most recent release, 2013’s Feels Like Home, finds the singer in a country mood, which suits her well, vocally and stylistically. One of Crow’s strengths has been her ability to imbue her songs with strong personalities, making them not just hooky, but genuinely human, using the verses to tell a story, then leaping to a big chorus—a trick not at all out of place in country music. Crow brought both her catalogue of hits and her updated sound to the night’s setlist, and with the help of a 7-piece backing band, showed her audience just how well country works for her.

Crow opened her set with 2002’s “Steve McQueen,” which led immediately into “All I Wanna Do,” much to the crowd’s delight. Crow played most of her big hits, from “The First Cut is the Deepest” to “Strong Enough,” and one of the most enjoyable parts of the night was watching her and her backing band add subtle country touches to her established catalogue. Without seeming forced, Crow and her band added elements like pedal steel, banjo, country-tinged vocal runs and old-fashioned twang to her familiar material, making the set cohesive and organic. 

Though she dedicated much of the set list to crowd favorites, Crow didn’t shy away from her new material, playing multiple cuts from her newest album. Standouts included “Give It To Me,” which sounds like Crow channeling Dolly Parton’s early work, and “Shotgun,” a rousing number that wouldn’t be out of place on any country radio station.

There were times when Crow mimicked her inspirations a little too closely. She began her encore with “Waterproof Mascara,” a song that aims at Loretta Lynn-style cleverness but felt a bit forced. Nevertheless, her vocals and exceptional backing band save the song from being too sickly-sweet.

Crow ended the night with a seasonally appropriate song: “Run Rudolph Run” which, in keeping with the rest of the evening, was high spirited and celebratory. Crow seems genuinely pleased to perform and invested in what she’s made. And with a crowded theater singing her songs back to her, why shouldn’t she be? 


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