Sheryl Crow - C'Mon America 2003 Review
Whilst he's better known now for allegedly fiddling with kiddies, having Beverly Hills' finest cosmetic surgeons hack any trace of his race or sex from his face and sitting alone up a tree in Neverland whilst Martin Bashir loiters beneath him, Michael Jackson can at least be credited both for some fine songs and for the discovery of Sheryl Crow.
On the Dangerous tour - and how adults laughed at that title, having little idea that under-sevens saw the true horror in it - Sheryl Crow would make an appearance singing opposite the self-titled 'king of pop' and, by her own account, having a rum old time offstage in fighting off the attentions of Jackson's old manager, the cigar chomping Frank Dileo. Certainly, during her first flush of success, Crow's desperation to break away from being Jackson's backing singer drove her to deliver her best work but like her one-time employer, her star has faded in recent years. A perfect time, you would think, for a perfectly planned comeback? Well, yes, but given that it involves much of the same old music whilst Crow drapes herself in the American flag, will it carry to the UK...
C'Mon America 2003 was recorded over two dates in Kettering, Ohio during July 2003 and, by using a pick-up band of experienced session men, Sheryl Crow takes a large, late-evening crowd through all her hits, including If It Makes You Happy, All I Wanna Do and Every Day Is A Winding Road. With an all-American crowd lapping up the big rock songs from all-American Crow, dressed head to to in stars'n'bars, both gigs would appear to be hugely entertaining had one been there but seven months later and in Ireland rather than Ohio, the DVD had better be great were it to work as well as the concerts so obviously did last summer.
The problem that faces Sheryl Crow is that, as the years passed, she's struggled to deliver an album as good as her breakthough, Tuesday Night Music Club, or even a song capable of standing alongside her first hit, All I Wanna Do. On first making it on her own terms, Crow came over a sassy, confident and sexy, particularly within that first hit's gracefully wordy verses and supple slide guitar. Best of all, and no matter that it was noticably vacuous, All I Wanna Do had a feeling about it that approached a philosophy on life and it was easy to understand how audiences grew to love Crow singing, "All I wanna do is have a little fun before I die". Elsewhere, Leaving Las Vegas showed that Crow was capable of material with slightly edgier material - working from the same source text as Mike Figgis, who directed Nicolas Cage and Elizabeth Shue in the film of the same name - but since those early peaks, Crow has found little to inspire her outside of tales from America's heartland.
Occasionally, Crow finds subjects with a story worth telling, as well something in her own songwriting to create a memorable song. Examples where Crow is successful in this are My Favourite Mistake, Redemption Day, Home and Everyday Is A Winding Road but most of the music on the DVD struggles to reach those heights. Indeed, there are a fair few songs that simply drift by and note the track list below to see how a run of three or four songs can roll by before a gem appears:
Besides the highpoint of All I Wanna Do, C'Mon America 2003 features two covers of varying quality - The First Cut Is The Deepest is a tender version of the song, which Sheryl Crow handles without fuss, but the finale, a version of Led Zeppelin's Rock And Roll, is a terrible effort by any standard. Featuring a guitarist who slavishly mimics Jimmy Page's riffs and solos but, with Crow dancing barefoot on top of a piano, Zeppelin's hurricane of noise never even makes so much as an appearance in passing.
The best moment, however, is Riverwide, which is the only track on the DVD to do the medium any justice. Featuring the song - one of Crow's best - played out over a soundcheck, the setting up of the equipment and under an interview in which Sheryl Crow talks about her fascination with middle America, it's a startling sequence simply because it dares to move away from the concert footage elsewhere on the disc. It's a shame, though, that there aren't more such breaks from the concert but, even as it is, C'mon America 2003 is good but compared to the two-disc Led Zeppelin set, simply is not good enough to compare to the best of the latest music releases.
C'Mon America 2003 has been transferred with a 1.78:1 Aspect Ratio but is non-anamorphic.
Whilst this is undeniably a criticism, the actual picture quality is excellent with the DVD capable of handling the reds and blacks with little to note as regards noticeable flaws.
C'Mon America 2003 has been transferred with both a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo and a 5.1 Surround remix. Of the two, the stereo soundtrack sounds slightly more natural, possibly from one associating music with a stereo rather than a surround mix but the 5.1 remix appears to use the rear speakers for little other than audience and ambient effects.
There are no bonus features on this DVD release.
With a smattering of good songs and one genuinely great one, C'Mon America 2003 isn't a bad DVD but, with few extras and little to attract anyone who is not already a fan, this release from Sheryl Crow will struggle to sell outside of her existing fanbase. Those who count themselves amongst that number will, however, find a straight concert recorded in a simple but visually thrilling manner but which sounds great and, in this case, that may well be more than enough.