When you attend a Sheryl Crow concert, you know what to expect. Her songs are imbedded in the lexicon of 90's pop culture. However, her 7-28-23 contribution to Beech Mountain's "Party on the Mountain" was a master class in how to curate a set list that tells a story, like the soundtrack to a movie you haven't seen.
The soundtrack starts with a young and carefree girl, doing whatever makes her happy, as Crow began the show by delivering fan favorites that helped make the singer-songwriter a household name. "If It Makes You Happy" set the tone for a night filled with smiling faces and good fun. "A Change Would Do You Good" suggests the young girl is getting restless and goes on the road, looking for something new.
Next up was her most streamed song to date, "Real Gone," written for the Disney-Pixar blockbuster "Cars" film soundtrack. Perhaps the fact she was performing in North Carolina, home of NASCAR, persuaded the selection. Not only was her band a group of legendary musicians, but they also hailed from different parts of North Carolina. In 1989 guitarist Audley Freed from Burgaw and bassist Robert Kearns from Conover formed the band Cry of Love, in Raleigh, NC. Freed would later go on to tour with The Black Crowes, Dixie Chicks, Peter Frampton, and Kearns toured with Lynyrd Skynyrd until joining Sheryl Crow's tour. Guitarist Peter Straud from Greensboro previously toured with Sarah McLachlan, Don Henley, and Pete Droge, and has been playing with Crow for over a decade. Freed, Kearns, and Straud later formed the band, Big Hat, and have been with Sheryl Crow for many tours.
Following the focus on North Carolina, Crow directed the soundtrack toward a melancholy mood with the blues-y "Run Baby Run," and her first hit single "Leaving Las Vegas." The protagonist is now well into her journey, finding people and places that feel good, but they never quite end up being what she is looking for.
The melancholy segued into romantic tales of love and rejection with "Strong Enough," asking for love's commitment and "My Favorite Mistake," a hind-sight tale of lessons learned. Songs of hard times such as "The First Cut Is the Deepest" and "Hard to Make a Stand" evoked comradery throughout the audience, especially after Crow shared that "Hard to Make a Stand" was written about a trans woman who was banned from her local coffee shop.
At this point in the set, our protagonist is coming into her own sense of self, having learned hard lessons and formed her own opinions. Her path is becoming clearer and is surer of herself. With the last few songs, "Soak Up the Sun" and "Every Day Is a Winding Road," Crow suggests our girl, now a woman, is driving off into the sunset, hopeful for the future. She is ready to meet life's continued adventure in whatever form that takes, while keeping her eyes and heart open. Her encore performance of "I Shall Believe" was the perfect theme song for the band's bow and farewell.
With such a vast catalog of story-telling songs, Sheryl Crow curated her set list into a novel-like story arc, and each song is a chapter. The result is a refreshing take on what a traditional singer-songwriter's performance can be.
If It Makes You Happy
A Change Would Do You Good
Real Gone (written for Cars movie)
Run Baby Run
Leaving Las Vegas
My Favorite Mistake
Hard To Make a Stand
The Difficult Kind
The First Cut Is the Deepest (written by Cat Stevens, recorded by Rod Stewart)
Cross Creek Road
All I Wanna Do
Soak Up the Sun
Every Day Is a Winding Road
Live With Me
I Shall Believe
Review : Libby O'Daniel
Images: Tim Hobert