It's usually a very good sign when a concert starts on time.
Acts from Jamaica, the UK and the USA made a tour stop in a steamy shed in Philly. A reggae legend, up-and-coming British singer-songwriter and long time American favorite singer-songwriter combined for a night of great music in the City of Brotherly Love.
Toots & the Maytals hold the current record of number one hit songs in Jamaica, with a total of 31. They took the stage promptly at 7 pm. A 4-piece band with 2-female back-up singers, including Toots’ daughter. Frederick “Toots” Hibbert was dressed in a black and white leather outfit. They played about 35 minutes. Lights behind the stage illuminated the group at first in red, yellow and green and throughout the performance they changed colors. Toots encouraged those in the crowd, still filing into the venue, to participate on almost every song. At 63, you can tell Toots still loves performing reggae music from his home island and was pleased that Sheryl Crow invited them on tour. The energetic set included: “Take Me Home Country Roads” (yes the John Denver song) and “54-46 That’s My Number”.
James Blunt’s 4-piece band looked very Beatles-esque in black suits, white shirts and skinny ties. Even their hair needed to be trimmed. I’ve only seen James Blunt a few times on TV, in videos and on DVD. I expected a mild mannered singer-songwriter who would share his songs in a simple intimate manner. Instead, James came running out, wearing a grey suit with a short-sleeved white shirt underneath, guitar in hand, doing an up-tempo number. The 11 song set was high energy for almost 60-minutes. Touring seems to have helped build-up his confidence. James, at 34, has passion for his music. His face revealing a lot of emotion. Going on before the headliner you sometimes have to win the crowd over. James did that and more. Despite the oppressive heat and humidity, during one song he actually ran into the audience to almost the top of the venue and came bounding back to the stage. Of course James did his biggest hit “You’re Beautiful”, with only 2 studio albums to date, he made the most of his catalog of music. At the end of his set, James, along with his band, were on stage facing the crowd which was on their feet applauding. With a camera in hand, James asked us to wave our arms in the air, and took photos of us, perhaps a way for him to remember the evening. That endeared me even more to this English singer-songwriter. While not as well known here across the pond, a few people probably discovered him this evening. I hope we will be hearing and seeing more of James Blunt in the future.
It was actually hard for me to imagine that Sheryl Crow could continue the energy James Blunt created from the stage. Sheryl has a tight, well rehearsed 6-piece band and 2-female back-up singers. She also has a lot of hits to draw from and many years of experience to draw upon. The 46 year-old was dressed in blue jeans with an orange and green trimmed sleeveless cowboy shirt, and cowboy boots. The humidity in the air didn’t seem to bother her, she still looked fresh throughout the 1-1/2 hours on stage. Sheryl weaved her numerous hits with politics, personal reflections / beliefs and even the Summer Olympics while videos and lights were helping to create the different moods. You can visit Sheryl’s tour diary on her website for a set list (http://www.sherylcrow.com/tour/tourdiary.aspx). In general, the song selections favored her latest release “Detours”. From which I think the stand out was “Gasoline”. For the encore, Toots came out to join Sheryl on the Stevie Wonder song “Higher Ground”.
All in all a hot evening of music with three great performances!
Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host