Ryman Simon Round-Up

Paul Simon at the Ryman. Photo by Heather.

Last week I said I was planning on posting a few more thoughts from the Paul Simon concert Heather and I went to at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, but then I got distracted by the whole getting-engaged thing. Here then are a few more-reviewy details. (I’m basically just typing my notes as I made them, so it’ll be the set list, interrupted by thoughts.)

— We got there a little late, unfortunately, so don’t know what he opened with. The first song we heard was “Dazzling Blue,” followed by “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.” He then stopped to do his welcoming comments, including a nice remark that there are few concert halls that make you feel humble just to be playing there, but that the Ryman was definitely one of them.

— After that, “So Beautiful or So What,” which is probably my favorite song from the new album. He had an eight-or-so piece band with him, and it was amazing how lush the arrangements were. But we’ll get back to that later.

— “Slip Sliding Away” reminded me of the Simon & Garfunkel performance I went to last year. During that concert, which was, logically, mainly Simon & Garfunkel songs, I wondered what it was like for him to get up and do a show like that. The songs they were doing were things that he had written forty to fifty years earlier, and he’s done a whole lot since then. Does he have the same affection for the older material? Would he rather be doing newer stuff?

That’s something you read about artists having to deal with — writing a song early on that becomes a hit, and so they have to play it years later to make people happy when they have sort of moved on from it and are getting tired of it.

Point being, that did not seem to be the case at all at this show. Paul seemed to genuinely love and enjoying playing these songs, be it his older classics or the ones from his newest album. And that was neat to see.

— Next up was an unreleased song about Viet Nam, which drove home that we were some of the younger people at the Ryman, albeit not the youngest by far. It says something, though, about the strength of a songwriter when you hope that they’ll play some of the songs that weren’t “good enough” to make an album.

— I’m not sure why, but “Mother and Child Reunion” gave me a bit of perspective on the timeline of his career — the first concert in Central Park was in 1981, he did another a decade later in 1991, and now I’m watching him in concert two more decades later in 2011. I was a bit young to remember the first one, but remember being excited watching the second one.

— There was a similar moment during “That Was Your Mother.” I remember driving to see a good friend in Lake Charles, Louisiana 15 years ago and making a special stop just so I could stand “on a corner in Lafayette,  state of Louisiana” like in the song that I’d loved for years already at that point. The song took on a different significance when I dated a woman from there for a while. And now, with Heather, having kids in my life for the first time, there are slightly different resonances — “You are the burden of my generation; I sure do love you, but let’s get that straight.” Never the same river twice. I’d wondered if I should enjoy the song the same way after the ex connection, but, you know, hearing it there, it’s just too fun to not.

— Also, one of the fringe benefits of being a successful musician, to me, would have to be that you get a free pass on your dancing being cool. You ever been to a concert and see a singer dancing in a way that, if they were just some man or woman in a club, you’d laugh at them, but because it’s their concert, they get to be cool? Totally apropos of nothing, I assure you.

— During “Hearts and Bones,” I made a note about the versatility of the band. Often you might have a horn player who plays different horns, or whatever — different instruments, but in the same family. It makes sense given the diversity of the instrumentals in his songs, but the band he had with him was crazy versatile — almost all of them at different points playing instruments that had nothing to do with each other. It was pretty impressive when you paid attention to it.

— Um, up next was a cover that I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t recognize. It had almost a Johnny Cash sort of country feel to it. After that was “Rewrite,” and then another song I didn’t know, and then “The Obvious Child,” which for me was the only point during the concert that I felt could have been better. I love the song and so probably had a very high standard, but the arrangement they did that night just seemed a little fast, lacking the range of the texture of the original. It’s a very high energy, driving, generally up-tempo song, but with moments that border on brooding, and those moments seemed to get lost in the energy of the live performance. Still awesome, though.

— After that, “The Only Living Boy In New York,” followed by “Love Is Eternal Sacred Light,” which to me was far better live than on the album for the same reason “Obvious Child” wasn’t — it was even more raucous and high-energy and fun. After that, “Questions for the Angels.”

— And then, “Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes.” I was more than a little impressed, at the opening, that he and the band he had nailed the depth of the vocals. It was funny to see, though, that even his improv is scripted — they deviated from the studio version of the song, but very closely followed the almost-as-old Concert In Central Park live version, with the stretched out “tananananananana” riff.

— During “Gumboots,” a guy was drumming the strings inside a baby grand piano like a xylophone. ‘Cause they were just that awesome. This was the last song before the first encore, which you knew was coming, because there was no way a Paul Simon concert would end with “Gumboots.” Nothing wrong with it; it’s a good song, but just not a show-closer.

— That said, I assumed the first song of the encore really would be the end — Paul Simon, alone with his guitar, singing “Sounds of Silence” on a barely-lit stage. Powerful.

— The next song could have ended it, too — “Kodachrome.” Its status as a classic was reinforced for me that night when I realized I was listening to Paul Simon sing Kodachrome in an era in which they really have taken his Kodachrome away — the song has outlasted its inspiration.

— Up next was “Gone At Last,” followed by “Here Comes The Sun.” The latter made me wonder briefly what it would be like if somehow The Beatles had recorded music in the last couple of decades. Both The Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel began their careers recording brilliant but relatively simple songs, and their work became more complex as they matured. Compare early S&G with “Graceland” or “So Beautiful …”, and there’s a world of difference. Really, the same is true of The Beatles from the beginning to end of their career, but it’s still interesting to think “what if…”

— “Late In The Evening,” as I wrote in my last post, was just a great, fun rock concert performance. It wrapped up the first encore, which was followed by a second, starting with “Still Crazy After All These Years.” Don Everly came out and joined Simon for “Bye Bye Love” and then Jerry Douglas joined him for “The Boxer.”

— The show concluded for real with an awesome performance of “The Boy In The Bubble,” which made me happy with a cool space video playing in the background. Not that it wouldn’t have made me happy otherwise; it’s another favorite. I love how it still rings true years later — twenty years after it was written, it still makes lasers in the jungle sound like miracle and wonder.

So baby don’t cry don’t cry don’t cry.

“Sometimes the Redneck Angels Aren’t Fair”

Matraca Berg and Lori McKenna

Lori McKenna (profile) and Matraca Berg at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville on 14 January 2011.

So a week ago, Heather and I went up to Nashville’s Bluebird Cafe for a singer/songwriter “In the Round” concert, featuring Kim Carnes, Matraca Berg, Barry Dean, and Lori McKenna, whom I think I may have mentioned on this blog once or twice.

Rather than trying to write any sort of coherent or cohesive review, here are some thoughts from notes I took, first on a napkin, until I spilled Heather’s Sprite on it, and then in a notebook she loaned me.

• It was my first time at the Bluebird Cafe, which is the pinnacle of intimate venues. For the In the Round show, the performers were in a circle in the middle of the room, and the audience sat at crowded tables or in pews in a corner, all packed together. If anyone’s ever been to one of our packed-out Face2Face improv show at Sam & Greg’s pizzeria in downtown Huntsville, it’s like that, but on a larger scale. (And if you haven’t, go soon.)

• Lori was third in the circle, and started with “The Luxury of Knowing,” from her new album. I’m biased, but I was amazed at the power of her voice. I’ve seen her live once before, but it was different in a smaller venue and being closer up. To me, her voice was the strongest of the circle, to the point that at first I though she was more mic’d or something.

• Most of the circle was from Nashville, with Lori, from outside of Boston, being the exception. There was still a good bit of ice and snow on the ground, and one of the other performers thanked people from coming out in the blizzard. To which Lori replied, “That was a blizzard? We have 16 inches of snow and my damn kids went to school.” Welcome to the South.

• Lori’s second song was the only one she did that night that wasn’t off of the new album. Instead, it was newer than the new album; she’d written “Sometimes He Does” three days before the concert. It was a great song, devastating and beautiful; a happier companion piece to “Lorraine”‘s “If He Tried.” It was a little depressing; I want to hear it again, and don’t know when or if I will. Lori does so many great songs that don’t make the albums, and I would hate it if “Sometimes He Does” becomes one of the ones that disappeared. (She told me her manager wouldn’t let it.)

• Kim Carnes was the celebrity of the group, best known for “Bette Davis Eyes.” (Her celebrity status was clear from the fact that she made up half of the circle with her two accompanying musicians.) Although I’d never heard most of the material she did Friday before, and really only knew her from the one song, it was funny how her voice would have moments were it was just so familiar (enhanced perhaps that she sounds a bit like the child of Bonnie Tyler and Bob Dylan, with some notes sounding exactly like the latter).

• Matraca Berg’s guitar wasn’t working so her husband went home and got her a new one. When he got back, she asked him to sit in and do a song. He played one he’d written, “God Bless The Broken Road,” known perhaps best as a huge hit for Rascal Flatts. A nice added bonus; and the first non-Lori song of the evening that I actually recognized. Heather saw Rascal Flatts last year, and we’ve talked about trying to see them together but haven’t been able to make it work for their current tour, so it was neat seeing that song together in that way.

Matraca commented that she writes songs pretty much every day, and he takes the time maybe a few times a year, and writes stuff like that. Commented Barry Dean of the country-music inspiration process: “Sometimes the redneck angels aren’t fair.”

• So Lori gets ready to do another song at one point, and asks Kim Carnes if she would be willing to join her. And I’m hugely disappointed that I don’t have a way of recording this, because the idea of a Lori McKenna/Kim Carnes duet is rather awesome. So she starts singing, and it’s “Sweet Disposition,” one of the “Lorraine” tracks that Lori had released a while back as a preview of the album, so one I’ve known the longest. It turns out that Kim Carnes sings back-up vocals on the album track, and I never knew it. I was a little amused because I loved the idea of the two of them working together, only to realize it was one of the songs on Lorraine that speaks to me personally the least. That said, I think hearing it like that gave me a new appreciation for it. Cool how concerts can make songs literally come alive for you.

• Barry Dean and Matraca Berg both did songs that they had cowritten with actress Mary Steenburgen, who was in the audience. Dean’s was not half bad, and Berg’s was incredible. It’s going to be on her new album, which comes out in May, and which will be purchased by me. Berg, by the way, is best known for her songwriting work, having written hits for other artists, including “Strawberry Wine,” “Wild Angels,” and “I Don’t Feel Like Loving You Today.” She recorded some of her own albums, but never had as much success singing her own material; May’s album will be her first in well over a decade. After the concert, I ordered one of her older albums, and am very much looking forward to the new one.

• The artists all seemed to be having fun. It was a great format for the show, and it was cool watching them interact and enjoy themselves. Lori was introducing a song that she wrote driving her kids to school (by recording it while driving — “Thank God for the iPhone,” she said) and talked about how she figured out she can get away with wearing her pajamas to take the kids to school if she wears yoga pants to sleep in. People see her, and figure she’s just on her way to work out. And when she’s wearing the same thing to pick them up, they just think, “Damn, she works out all day. Not doing anything for her, though.”

• For her last song, Matraca Berg did “Strawberry Wine” and the applause started from the first couple of notes. It was only the second non-Lori song I knew. I loved that she had changed the lyrics by a decade — “I still remember when 40 was old.” The whole singer-songwriter thing is interesting; how some songs are more successful by some people. I like Lori’s versions of the songs Faith Hill recorded on “Fireflies” better than Faith’s, and Matraca’s version of “Strawberry Wine” was at least as good as Deana Carter’s.

• It seemed random, at first, when they had Matraca’s husband come out and do another song, and he chose not to do one he wrote, but one he wished he’d written. Why is this guy doing “Mr. Bojangles”? I mean, it’s a good song and all. Well, thanks to Wikipedia, it’s because Jeff Hanna was a founding member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. You know, that’s kinda cool, too. Another little bonus I wasn’t expecting going into the night. It was one of a few times during the night when other artists just sang along for the fun of it, and I also wish I had those recorded.

•Kim Carnes wrapped the whole thing up with, of course, “Bette Davis Eyes.” Which, it turns out, ironically, she didn’t write. Something else you may not have known about “Bette Davis Eyes” — according to Billboard Magazine, it was the second most successful song of the 80s. Which, really, is kind of crazy. Also crazy was the idea that I’m listening to this huge hit of the early 80s, sung by the original artist, at a cafe, 30 years after it came out. Wouldn’t have seen that coming. Cool getting that opportunity, and cool hearing such a big song in such a small place; very intimate. It took me back to being a kid, when, having not yet heard of Bette Davis, I thought she was saying “She’s got better taste, besides.” It was a great performance; Kim Carnes’ voice is a very unusual instrument, but she uses it flawlessly.

• Perhaps most cool of all, though, is that I went up and introduced myself to Lori to thank her for her part in my Christmas presents, expecting to have to explain that I was the person who she’d let write an advance review of “Lorraine” and sent the signed LP to. I went up and said I wanted to thank her for my Christmas presents, and before I could even introduce myself, Lori asks, “Are you David?” Um. She knew who I was. That was kind of cool. So she has me meet her manager, and she knew who I was. And her producer (the aforementioned Barry Dean) and he knew who I was. It was rather surreal, and incredibly flattering. I ended up talking to Lori for a while and Barry for possibly even longer, and really enjoyed it.

Oh, and, hey, by the way, earlier, when I mentioned that Mary Steenburgen was there? With her was her husband, Ted Danson. Really did kinda feel like a concert where everybody knew my name.

Huntsville Song

So I wrote in my post-Jewel-concert blog post about how she sang a song that she’d written about Huntsville, and how it was more than a little cool. I saw on Twitter yesterday that she’s posted all of the city songs she wrote for her tour online as free downloads. Good stuff. Go check ’em out!


This post is one of a series I’m writing as part of my participation as an official blogger for COUNTRY Financial/Cotton States’ Road Trips and Guitar Picks tour program, covering Jewel’s June 13 concert in Huntsville, where I had backstage access.

The rest of my pre-concert Jewel blogging can be read here.

Contrary to the promise of opening act Radney Foster, Jewel did not, in fact, rock.

I wasn’t really expecting her to, despite the potential for rocking raised by the last time I saw her at Lilith Fair 13 years ago. Given that this concert was billed as an intimate, acoustic evening with Jewel, I wasn’t really expecting rocking.

Nor was I expecting how incredibly the evening showcased Jewel both as a singer and a songwriter.

The evening started off on a rather cool note. Having been selected as official blogger for COUNTRY Financial/Cotton States’ Road Trips and Guitar Picks tour program, a good friend and I had the opportunity to go backstage before the show, have our picture made with Jewel and be part of an exclusive session. The picture making part, to be honest, didn’t set the bar very high. Jewel was in a curtained-off booth, so you couldn’t see her until it was your turn to have your picture made. Everyone went in in groups of four, no more, no less, stood next to Jewel, who didn’t move, had the picture made, no autographs, no conversation, and then filed back out. Jewel did make eye contact, smile and speak briefly on our way out, but that was it.

Once that obligatory part was done, however, the Jewel who came into the backstage room with us a few minutes later was friendly and personable. During a question and answer session, she joked with long-time fans and gave great responses to others.

I hadn’t planned on asking anything, but couldn’t resist the opportunity. I’ve always been fascinated by the relationship that artists have with their material. Once you have a hit song, you’re expected to play it forever. In Jewel’s case, she wrote “Who Will Save Your Soul” twenty years ago. There are things I wrote two years ago that I no longer identify with in the same way, and, frankly, some I’m just embarrassed by. I can’t imagine having to put my heart into things I wrote as a teenager. I asked her she related to songs differently as she was at different places in life.

Jewel didn’t answer the question the way I was thinking, in terms of continuing to sing old songs. Instead, she took it in a different direction, explaining that anytime she releases an album, she goes back through her collection of unreleased songs to see if there is anything she feels differently about or has new ideas on. She said that it’s funny to see things that she has written that she herself understands in a different way than she did when she wrote them. I talked about how I’ve experienced that with Paul Simon songs over the years, identifying more with the emotion in songs as I experience more in life. It was neat hearing Jewel talk about having that same experience with her own material, and, as a writer, I can completely understand how that could happen.

After the Q&A session, Jewel performed an unreleased song for us that I really hope she someday puts on an album. For the record, even in those close quarters and laid-back setting, she has an amazing voice. The chorus went “there’s a hole in my heart in the shape of you,” which I’m including in this blog entry mainly so that I can occasionally check and see if the song has been released yet.

Jewel in concert. Photo courtesy Kristy Hill.

And then, it was time for the actual concert. The opening act, as I mentioned, was Radney Foster. I immediately bought one of his songs, “A Little Revival,” from his new album off of iTunes, as well as Keith Urban’s cover of Foster’s song, “I’m In.” Good stuff.

Jewel’s set was fantastic. The stripped-down, acoustic setting really showed off the power of her voice, and she interspersed between the songs bits of her life story, which put the songs in context. Fascinating stuff for anyone, I would imagine, but for me, it was a really cool peek behind the curtain at her process as a songwriter.

Jewel has always had fun showing off a bit; certainly that was evident in her encore performance in which she came back on stage to yodel for an enthralled audience — “Want me to do it faster?” But the crowd really got into it when she showed off a bit as a songwriter by singing her “Huntsville Song,” a song she had written before the concert about Huntsville. I’m sure she has to have a template that she uses and fills in local details, but, even so, wow! Great stuff!

(ADDENDUM: OK, I’m embarrassed. Jewel herself read my post, and let me know on Twitter that every song is written completely from scratch. Take my amazement at the song, and multiply it by a couple of orders of magnitude. WOW!!!! She’s got a busy tour schedule, so creating songs for each city as she tours is mind-blowing. As is, for the record, the fact that Jewel just read my blog. How cool is that!?)

At the concert, you could pay to be able to download a recording of the night’s concert, and the Huntsville Song by itself was a great reason to do so. (I had been planning on buying the recording anyway; I’m too modest to let myself brag too much, so I have to be passive-aggressive about my bragging. I figured I could get the recording and play songs from it in the future when people would hear it, and then be able to say, as if it were completely random, “Oh, hey, you hear that song playing? That’s actually from this time I got to …”)

Of course, the Huntsville Song was both one of the high points and low points of the concert for me. Sure, it was great, but I had a bet with my friend Heather, who also went to the concert, as to whether she would play her version of Sweet Home Alabama, which she recorded for the soundtrack of the movie by the same name. The smart money seemed to be that she would, so I agreed to a bet that the loser would bake cobbler and bring it to work for the winner, a culinary feat neither of us had attempted before. When I heard the Huntsville Song, I figured the odds she would do both it and Sweet Home were pretty low, and I was right. So, I’m going to have to figure out how to fix cobbler. Given my skills in the kitchen, I imagine it will be a rather pyrrhic victory for Heather.

Given Jewel’s recent foray into country music, I was a little surprised that the entire concert was performed without a hint of twang; I never would have guessed that she’s had a genre change since I’d last seen her. The set list was a great mix of new songs, unfamiliar songs and old favorites.

All in all, it was a great evening — an awesome concert, a unique opportunity and an incredible experience!

Tonight’s The Night

This post is one of a series I’m writing as part of my participation as an official blogger for COUNTRY Financial/Cotton States’ Road Trips and Guitar Picks tour program, covering Jewel’s June 13 concert in Huntsville, where I’ll have backstage access.

So tonight’s the night! After a couple of weeks of me blogging about it, a friend and I will be attending Jewel’s concert at the Von Braun Center here in Huntsville, and meeting Jewel backstage! (It occurs to me this may be a wasted post, since few people read my blog on Sunday, and the concert will be in the past tomorrow.)

This once-in-a-lifetime experience includes a backstage performance by Jewel, a question and answer session, and a group photo with Jewel. The Backstage Experience will also include a hospitality menu of hors d’oeuvres and beverages. You will be escorted back to the theater to enjoy the show.

So, yeah, I’m kinda excited about it. I’ve probably said most of what I have to say about it over the last couple of weeks, though I’m sure I’ll have more to say after. I didn’t realize how close Jewel and I are in age until very recently, and so I’m looking even more forward to the Q&A session because of that. There are a handful of artists that I really like that are about my age, and it’s been really neat to follow them as they’ve matured along with me. From the sound of Sweet & Wild, Jewel’s at a really great place in her life right now.

On a side note, my friend Heather is also going with a friend of hers to the concert, and challenged me to a bet as to whether or not Jewel will perform her version of Sweet Home Alabama tonight. I’m taking the stance that she will, based on other concerts I’ve been to where the artists have played their songs about the place they’re playing. At stake, homemade blackberry cobbler. Neither one of us has ever made blackberry cobbler before, and I really can’t cook at all, so it should be an interesting bet. (A year ago, I made a big bowl of “blackberry thing” that kinda resembled cobbler. In my defense, kinda, it wasn’t supposed to.) Could be a pyrrhic victory for my office-mates if I lose, so root for her to sing it.

Jewels of the Collection

This post is one of a series I’m writing as part of my participation as an official blogger for COUNTRY Financial/Cotton States’ Road Trips and Guitar Picks tour program, covering Jewel’s June 13 concert in Huntsville, where I’ll have backstage access.

At this point, the concert is getting close, so I’ve been digging out my Jewel CDs to get ready for Sunday night. I’ll be honest — my knowledge of Jewel’s music fades a bit over the years, from knowing her first album backward and forward to having never heard her country stuff, a fact that has had as much to do with the genre as with Jewel herself. Until recently, I didn’t listen to country, so when she went there, I didn’t follow. Now, being a bit more turned on to country music, I’m looking forward to the melding of the two.

While I’m refreshing myself on her work, I thought I’d write a post revisiting some of my favorites.

  • Like I said, my greatest level of familiarity is with Jewel’s first album, Pieces of You, starting with the first single, Who Will Save Your Soul. This album came out at a time when it was still pretty common for me to listen to albums as albums, instead of the modern era of ripping tracks individually to a computer or media player, so I listened to these songs a lot. “Save Your Soul was fun and catchy and eminently listenable.

  • In fact, this song gets two entries in this list, a second for the VH1 Storytellers version which culminates at the end with Jewel just having fun vocally. “When the kitty wants some ooooh it goes meow meow … meow.” Just a light bit of froth, but it still amuses me years later.

  • You Were Meant For Me was another of the singles from the first album. I wasn’t quite as passionate about it, but did like it, and I have a very funny story about my good friend Lain and I accidentally flirting with each other to this song during Jewel’s performance at Lilith Fair that I’m not going to tell on the blog right now. Ask me sometime.

  • The other two songs — save one I’m skipping — that stand out most from “Pieces of You” are Little Sister, which was, I believe, never a single, but which I enjoyed for the breezy way Jewel moved smoothly through the song. It’s not a typical loud uptempo song, but flows quickly. At the other extreme was the song that to me exemplified the downside of the early Jewel folk-sensitivity, the title track, Pieces Of You, which I always thought almost bordered on offensiveness in its sensitivity — “You say he’s a Jew, he’ll never wear that funny hat again.”

  • I bought Jewel’s album Spirit the week it came out on audiocassette, but, to be honest, all these years later, I remember it for two main things. One is that any time I hear the title, I immediately thing, a la Nirvana, “Smells Like Jewel Spirit” (sorry, Jewel). The other, of course, is the great first single, Hands.

  • At this point, I have to note that one of my favorite Jewel songs isn’t by Jewel at all. Modern Humorist did an impressively dead-on Hands pastiche for their fake soundtrack collection with a Jewel imitator crooning A Little Prayer (Wolverine’s Theme (which you can download for free at that link) — “My mutant chromosomes / and the strong metal in my bones … “

  • I don’t think I bought This Way when it came out, but I’ve always had a fond place in my heart for Standing Still. Good stuff.

  • Yeah, I still think of the Schick commercial when I hear Intuition, but, you know, that really doesn’t make the song any less awesome.

  • Dear Jewel, when you come to Huntsville Sunday, since you’ll actually be in Alabama, would you be so kind as to perform your version of Sweet Home Alabama? I’d be ever so grateful.

  • And then, the song I skipped. I don’t know exactly why Foolish Games is far and away my favorite Jewel song, but it is. To the point where I was terribly excited when I bought the album and discovered the album cut had a verse not in the radio version, meaning that there was even more of Foolish Games. Is it the awesome piano bit? (I’m a sucker for female singer-songwriters with pianos, what can I say?) The slow, brooding way the song unfolds? The lyrics? The fact that even then I so wanted to be the guy in the song? I mean, you know, he’s like the bad guy, and yet still awesome. The Han Solo/Rhett Butler bad/good/compelling archetype in five minutes of piano brood. OK, I’m gonna shut up now. This is kinda embarrassing.

You took your coat off and stood in the rain,
You’re always crazy like that.
And I watched from my window,
Always felt I was outside looking in on you.
You’re always the mysterious one with
Dark eyes and careless hair,
You were fashionably sensitive
But too cool to care.
You stood in my doorway, with nothing to say
Besides some comment on the weather.

The Jewel Cases

I’ve actually seen Jewel in concert once before.

I wrote recently about the fact that I’m going to Jewel’s June 13 concert in Huntsville, and that I’ll have backstage access as an official blogger for COUNTRY Financial/Cotton States’ Road Trips and Guitar Picks tour program, which gets fans involved in the concerts — you can become a Roadie to be eligible for prizes, and there’s a sweepstakes to win an all-expense-paid trip to one of the concerts.

This will be my second time to see Jewel in concert. The first was 13 years ago, during the Atlanta stop in the first Lilith Fair tour. (On a related note, not only am I about to see Jewel in concert again, I just bought my tickets today to Lilith Fair.)

The line-up for the 1997 Atlanta Lilith show was rather impressive — starting with then-current one-hit-wonder Abra Moore (“Four-Leaf Clover”), Susanna Hoffs of the Bangles, then-hot Fiona Apple, Joan Osborne, Emmylou Harris, Jewel and Sarah McLachlan.

The first three acts were lagniappe, but were fun. Joan Osborne and Emmylou Harris, I wish I were seeing now instead of then. They both put on great shows, but my musical tastes were still far too immature to really appreciate them. At that point, I still knew Joan Osborne solely from the “One Of Us” song, which is probably the least Joan Osborne-y song there is. I’m practically kicking myself over the great songs I must have just sat through waiting for her to play that. Emmylou Harris, I doubt I’d even heard of before Lilith Fair. Ah, the folly of youth.

And then, there was Sarah McLachlan and Jewel.

This being Lilith Fair, Sarah McLachlan was closing act. This being late 1997, Jewel was the superstar. To be honest, me being a huge Sarah McLachlan fan, I was more interested in hearing her, even if Jewel was the bigger name at the time. And, to be sure, Sarah didn’t disappoint. She earned her place in the closing slot. Brilliant show.

But this post is about Jewel, right?

At the time of the concert, Jewel’s first album, “Pieces Of You,” had been out for a couple of years, though “Foolish Games” had peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 not terribly long before, so she was still very much a popular act. (Ah, Wikipedia, provider of great music history information. Did you know that “Pieces of You” was one of the best-selling debut albums ever?)

Point being, though, her debut album had been out long enough that she was already looking ahead to the future, and a decent amount of her concert was new material. Now, keep in mind, this was very early folksy ingenue Jewel, whose then-only album had a song with the lyrics, “So please be careful with me, I’m sensitive / And I’d like to stay that way.” It was her, and she made it work, but it’s hard to think of an artist more precious than Jewel at this point.

But that night, at Lilith Fair, she rocked. She did the “Pieces of You” hits, and they sounded like the “Pieces of You” hits. But she did a lot of songs I didn’t know. And they rocked, awesomely and with a great rocking. At the time, I assumed they were material for her next album, but when Spirit came out, more than a year later, I didn’t recognize any of them. Now, maybe they were on there, and it had been long enough that I didn’t recognize them from the live version I’d heard. Maybe she was doing covers that young, musically immature me didn’t recognize. Maybe they were songs she was working on and decided not to go with. I have no idea. All I know, was for that one night, Jewel put on a show that was great in the ways I’d expected, and great in totally unexpected ways as well.

Now, I’m certainly not going into this upcoming concert with that sort of expectation, but, I will admit, from having seen her before, I am kinda excited about seeing what she’s going to do this time.