Sheryl Crow – Miles From Memphis: Live At The Pantages Theatre (Eagle Vision)

Sheryl Crow’s most recent studio album was last year’s 100 Miles From Memphis, a tribute to the great soul music of that city….think Al Green and Stax Records. I wasn’t a big fan of the album. Crow is a fine rock and pop vocalist, but she’s no Aretha Franklin, or even Ann Peebles, and she proves it throughout the record.

This DVD was shot at the end of her tour that came on the back of that album, at the final stop in Los Angeles at the famous Pantages Theatre (the Academy Awards used to be held there back in the 40s and 50s).

Crow has assembled an excellent band for the tour so I was hoping that their performance would somehow inspire Crow’s, or at least overshadow it. To some extent they do…but not enough to warrant watching all two hours of this live show.

The band is anchored by a crack rhythm section…Tommy Sims on bass, Victor Indrizzo on drums, and most notable, rhythm guitarist Chris Bruce, who lays down some killer grooves throughout the show. In addition there’s a keyboard player, two horns (trumpet & sax) and two female backing vocalists and Crow is accompanied by guitarist Doyle Bramhall II. Bramhall is a very fine guitarist, who often plays in Eric Clapton’s band.

The setlist includes eight songs from 100 Miles From Memphis along with Crow favourites like Strong Enough, Everyday Is A Winding Road and All I Wanna Do.

The setup is not unlike the recent Tedeschi-Trucks Band show here in Auckland. That was based upon big white-soul revues like Delany & Bobbie & Friends and Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs And Englishmen. The problem here is that Crow simply doesn’t have the chops to front such an outfit. It also becomes painfully clear that she is the least funky person on stage. Her dancing is embarrassingly stilted.

So the band’s good, right? Yes. But the sound mixer must have fallen in love with the rhythm section as well. They are mix way up front while Crow and Bramhall are too far down in the mix to be appreciated. That’s not such a big problem with Crow’s weak vocals, but the viewer has to strain to hear any of Bramhall’s solos.

There are a few high points. The band segues in to Marvin Gaye’s Got To Give It Up during All I Wanna Do, and a real party atmosphere starts to build. That continues with the version of the Jackson 5’s I Want You Back, featuring Crow’s best vocal of the night (Crow was once a backing vocalist for Michael Jackson back in the 80s).

The DVD also has a 20 minute bonus feature with behind the scenes footage and two rehearsal performances. Like the main show, it’s nothing to get excited about.

Marty Duda