SHERYL CROW and KEB’ MO’ at the Hollywood Bowl

Nearly 30 years after the release of Sheryl Crow’s Tuesday Night Music Club, the seven-times platinum debut album that launched her to enduring superstardom as one of pop’s most prolific and personally compelling singer/songwriters, she is a media darling once again thanks to a popular tell-all documentary which made its premiere on Showtime in early May.

Besides the array of huge era defining 90’s hits, the nine-time Grammy winner’s pre-stardom success touring with Michael Jackson and endless fascination with her romantic life and decision to adopt and raise two boys as a single mom, one of the most significant aspects of her career has been her ongoing support for, as she says, “organizations making a difference in this world.” Her website lists a total of 13 charitable organizations she has been involved with, from Sandy Hook Promise, Delta Children’s Home and Feeding America to Stand Up To Cancer and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (the latter two reflecting her own battle with the disease.

Late in her high spirited and often explosive performance at the Hollywood Bowl – a true homecoming for an artist who lived here for many years before hightailing it to Nashville – Crow invited a mystery guest to join her onstage to duet on “Soak Up The Sun.” The whimsical tune of her most enduring singalongs whose insightful message about appreciating what we have is often obscured by its infectious chorus and lighthearted Beach Boy-bright harmonies. She said the guy’s name just about as quickly as she explained that he paid a ton of money to one of her charities (she mentioned that quickly as well) for the opportunity of a lifetime to sing with an icon at the Bowl in front of a full house. His limited vocal chops were beside the point. He sang along and harmonized amiably, serving as a cheerleader helping rouse the crowd to “lighten up,” get out of their seats and sing along to a hook that is as dynamic now as it was 20 years ago.   (No doubt, everyone was wondering how much this generous soul donated for this privilege).

Crow sandwiched that major moment between two of her other iconic upbeat jams, starting with   “All I Wanna Do,” the whimsical poetic ode to fun in L.A. that made her instant pop royalty. It was especially impactful having the crowd dance and sing along to iconic lyrics that still remind us there’s lots of great things going on once “the sun comes up on the Santa Monica Boulevard.” She followed “Soak Up The Sun” with a lively romp through “Every Day is a Winding Road,” the perfect choice to wrap the show (pre-encore) because its words resonate even more now, as we emerge from the pandemic and go through turbulent sociopolitical times, than they did back in the relatively carefree mid-90’s.

Crow’s expansive set gifted the audience with a wonderfully fulfilling time travel experience, taking us from the deep nostalgia of the 90s (“Leaving Las Vegas,” “If It Makes You Happy,” “My Favorite Mistake”) to her warmhearted 2000s rendition of Cat Stevens’ “The First Cut is the Deepest” and on to present day with rambunctious 2022 twists on The Rolling Stones’ “Live With Me” and Post Malone’s “Circles”). As engaging as the songs were, she also kept everyone just as riveted emotionally with her thoughtful between song anecdotes.

After an intimate, earthy and bluesy “Strong Enough,” she delighted all independent minded nonconformist women by saying, “That’s why I never got married…but I also never got divorced. I kept all my money.” Later, Crow reflected wistfully on the past few years and how the pandemic affected her children. Her words resonated most strongly with those of us of her generation, growing up at a time when we didn’t have to deal with the same circumstances her boys have to cope with, where “a friend could die from the pandemic, or they could be shot at school.” She bridged generations perfectly by following “Can’t Cry Anymore” (from her first album) with the gentle, loving and ultimately hopeful “Forever” (an original recording from the documentary).

While Crow would later celebrate an L.A. homecoming at the Bowl by celebrating the sun coming up on the Santa Monica Boulevard, her inspired choice of an opening act, venerable Grammy winning post-modern bluesman, Keb’ Mo’ sang passionately of his own home section of the city (“back in the ‘hood” of South L.A.) on the sweetly soulful “Good To Be (Home Again),” the title track from his new album and the centerpiece of his set.

The Grammy winning singer, songwriter and guitarist set the tone for a fun evening with his spirited, easy rolling pop, jazz and R&B-tinged blues, sharing career highlights like “Government Cheese,” “Perpetual Blues Machine” and “Standing at the Station” and sharing two other gems from Good To Be…, the infectious light funk original “’62 Chevy” and a laid back, gospel tinged take on “Lean on Me” that inspired a brief singalong.