Review and Photos by Daniel LockeA musical angel has fallen to Earth, and you know that she is an angel by her sweet and innocent looks and a voice that could melt away all her listeners' anger and replace it with a broad smile. If you close your eyes you know you are in heaven. Who is this angel? It's the multi-talented Joan Osborne.
This is the same singer that most people know as "That woman who sang "that God" song ("One of Us" i.e. 1995), but she is a lot more than that. Osborne has come to Chicago in support of her new CD How Sweet It Is, which is a full seven years after her massively successful debut Relish. Her second release in 2000, Righteous Love tanked commercially and sank from sight shortly after release. The new music is a stirring rendition of various '60s soul covers. The CD chooses songs that offer one situation after another and how we find ourselves dealing with them. She does a great job illustrating this with her writing and the writings of others. She does this by turning to the great sounds of Motown and morphing them to compliment her unique singing style.
She sauntered on stage sporting all black, a t-shirt with Lover printed on it along with black open toe shoes, which all contrasted nicely with her long, sandy blonde hair. On" Why Can't We Live Together," Osborne torched the audience with her wide and velvety vocal range. The Temptations' "Smiling Faces Sometime" found her high notes holding on barely long enough for her to grab a gulp of air. "Think" by Aretha Franklin and "The Weight" by the Supremes, had Osborne's able backing band dig in deep and find their Motown roots. As the band kept the Detroit jams going, Joan kept the soul train on track with "Love's in Need of Love Today" by Steve Wonder. Other notable musical treats were "How Sweet it Is," "I'll be Around" and "Only You Know." "War" had Osborne's voice go deeper and gut out the strong chorus.
She changed tempo on her monster hit "One of Us," which still plays clever albeit a little too self-important. The audience ate every oozing word as if a great philosopher's words were set to some pretty cool rock music. The funk got turned up to 10 on the street smart "Everybody Is a Star" by Sly and the Family Stone. Osborne's fun, but rather ordinary stage presence is carried on the wings of her lyrics. The great songs kept flowing with "Only You Know and I Know" by Dave Mason, "Spider Web" and "Ladder."
Osborne closed the evening with the dingy and very sexy "Feel My Love." What she has done is taken some great songs and made them even better by stamping her unique style all over them.
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