concert reviews

Jewel, at Her Best When Going It Alone
Jewel at Wolf Trap, Vienna, VA, Thursday 8 June 2006

Jewel began as a folk singer, but Thursday night at the Wolf Trap she led her five-piece band through a high-energy rock performance. That additional power turned her girlish coo into a more sultry, passionate croon, even adding a Stevie Ray Vaughan soulfulness on the bluesy "Love Me, Just Leave Me Alone."

Sometimes, though, the band pushed her songs too far: The ordinarily reverent "Hands" turned almost brazen, while the cheerful choruses of "Good Day" ("It's gonna be alright / 'cause I'm alright with me") seemed unconvincingly cheesy at a near-yell.

By contrast, Jewel was at her most compelling during a seven-song solo acoustic segment in the middle of her two-hour set. She slowed down "You Were Meant for Me" to emphasize the song's melancholy, while the mellow "1000 Miles Away" was drenched with sorrow. After inviting requests ("I'm a little blond jukebox!") and then claiming to have forgotten the songs, Jewel indulged one fan in the front row who called her bluff by producing a lyric sheet. The song, the unreleased "Nicotine Love," was one of the night's standouts, with its haunting lyrics and spontaneous performance.

Jewel was equally impressive unaccompanied. She opened the night with a booming a cappella rendition of "Over the Rainbow" and ended with a lengthy yodel, showing surprising versatility for this often-pigeonholed folk singer.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post, 10 June 2006; Page C04
.: Selected discography: Goodbye Alice in Wonderland (Jewel, 2006); 0304 (Jewel, 2003); This Way (Jewel, 2001); Spirit (Jewel, 1998); Pieces of You (Jewel, 1995).