Sheryl Crow, John Mayer / Sept. 6, 2006 / Independence Township, Mich. (DTE Enery Music Theatre)
It was a night of formidable chick power -- even if one of the principles was a guy. Sheryl Crow and John Mayer together made for as potent a double bill as we've seen all summer, especially since eacIt was a night of formidable chick power -- even if one of the principles was a guy.
But the fact of the matter is that an overpowering appeal to women, with his good looks and doe-eyed love songs, has made John Mayer a multi-platinum success. And it also makes him a good touring match for Sheryl Crow, the veteran "chick" rocker whose swagger yields nothing to her male counterparts and is happy to use Jet's "Cold Hard Bitch" as her walk-on music.
So Crow and Mayer together made for as potent a double bill as we've seen all summer, especially since each offered a different but equally ambitious kind of show.
Mayer's 75-minute set presented him as an artist in transition, with a repertoire that's broadening and style that's moving more towards virtuoso instrumental displays than lovelorn troubadour-ing. That doesn't mean the swoon-inducing Mayer is gone, however; following Mat Kearney's opening set, Mayer led with the sweetly melodic "Why Georgia," though the more muscular "Bigger Than My Body" was more indicative of what lay ahead. Playing five songs from his new album, "Continuum," Mayer and his facile band let their arrangements breathe as he showed that a pink, rose-festooned guitar doesn't keep anyone from being a real-man guitar hero.
Mayer laced emotive, stinging solos into "Vultures," "Gravity" and "Slow Dancing in a Burning Room" and particularly stretched out on the new album's "Belief" and "Good Love Is on the Way" from his John Mayer Trio project "Try!" "My Stupid Mouth" and the unavoidable "Daughters" satisfied to the hit-loving side of Mayer's crowd, but a jazzy keyboard and saxophone break in the middle of "No Such Thing" closed the show with a necessary reminder that there's more to Mayer these days than just some pretty melodies.
Crow has melodies too -- and lots of hits of her own amidst one of the most intimate and emotional bodies of work to be found from a hitmaking pop star. That gave her 90-minute set a wide emotional sweep, from the good-time grooves of "Steve McQueen" and "All I Wanna Do" to elegiac paeans such as "If It Makes You Happy" and "It Don't Hurt."
Bolstered by a string quartet on most of the 16 songs, Crowe and her four-piece band started strong with "A Change Would Do You Good," "Steve McQueen," "My Favorite Mistake" and her version of Cat Stevens' "The First Cut Is the Deepest," and closed the night rocking with "Soak Up the Sun" and "Everyday Is a Winding Road."
In between she offered some pointed political commentary -- urging the audience to "vote some conscious people" into office this November -- that gave a heftier contest to "Redemption Day" and "Home." A loosely grooving version of the Bob Dylan-written "Mississippi" was a highlight, as was a poignant rendition of "Good is Good" from her latest album, "Wildflower." Crow and company also pulled out "Real Gone," her contribution to the "Cars" film soundtrack.
Eschewing gratuitous flash, Crow -- who switched between guitar and bass while playing harmonica on two songs -- gave the crowd quite a bit to chew on. But it was still, first and foremost, a "Rock and Roll" show -- which she underscored by closing the night with a spirited cover of that Led Zeppelin classic.