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Story and photos by Andy ArgyrakisWith a solo career spanning nearly 20 years following a stint as a background singer, the 35 million album selling Sheryl Crow gradually transitioned from a fresh face to a female rock elder. A few minutes into a sold out Ravinia Festival appearance (which she remarked was one of her all time favorite venues), the 48-year-old concurred she's become a mentor figure of sorts, and as her near two hour set indicated, there's plenty younger artists could learn from the breast cancer survivor.
For starters, Crow knows how to write a modern rock hit, with practically every tune throughout the evening landing on the charts at some point, followed by her continuously evolving musical versatility. In addition to guitar playing, she strapped on a bass during several songs and even jammed behind the keyboard, backed by an ultra tight backing band with two background singers.
The slick side of her personality and songwriting style came out on "Everyday Is a Winding Road," though it quickly shifted towards the roots rock of the New Orleans-inspired "Love Is Free." She also unveiled an increasing affinity for soul on the new tune "Summer Day" (coming on the July 20 CD 100 Miles from Memphis), though the lyrics followed the tried and true party atmosphere of "All I Wanna Do" and "If It Makes You Happy." Crow also took a break from the jubilation during a stripped back acoustic set that leaned in the alternative country direction and was anchored by "Strong Enough," during which she yearned for a man who "was preferably not married and definitely not gay."
In spite of so many crests, Crow wasn't entirely invincible, floundering through the higher notes of "Leaving Las Vegas" and looking visibly distracted as her acoustic guitarist had an in-ear monitor issue during "Soak Up the Sun." Nonetheless, she rebounded for the growling finales "Steve McQueen" and "There Goes the Neighborhood" before an even brisker encore of "Change Would Do You Good." Between the start to finish sing-a-long, the picture perfect atmosphere and a properly paced performance, Crow officially kicked off summer with a bang.
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