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Sheryl Crow glides at the Bowl

October 25, 2005|Steve Appleford | Special to The Times

Sheryl Crow is no rock 'n' roll trailblazer, but the music does seem to come naturally to her. On a cool, misty night Sunday at the Hollywood Bowl, Crow was once again a folk-rocker, with a Keith Richards guitar jones, and a dedicated, unpretentious student of classic rock.

At their best, her folk-rock torch songs do stick with you, and they sat easily on Sunday on a set-list alongside songs by her '60s and '70s heroes: Bob Dylan's "Mississippi," Elton John's "Levon" and Cat Stevens' "The First Cut Is the Deepest." She failed none of them.

But Crow's popularity is mainly the result of her own hits, most of which have sticky pop melodies. At the Bowl, she added a 15-piece string section to her four-man backup band, providing layers of feeling to the delicate ballad "Strong Enough."

Not everything was as memorable. Some of the non-hits just fell flat. But a few new tunes did make a lasting impression, from the simple antiwar message of "Where Has All the Love Gone" to the title song from her new album, "Wildflower," which was achingly vulnerable and direct.

The album is her first in three years, and the Bowl wasn't full.

"I've been away for a while, I can't lie to you," she said from stage before making a reference to fiance Lance Armstrong. "It's hard to record and tour and to train for the Tour de France."

By the time she sang "If It Makes You Happy," Crow was doing a Dylan impression for a verse. Her string players shook maracas during "All I Wanna Do." She wasn't remaking pop music history, but Crow delivered all of it with genuine ease and charm.

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