She may have come in second on Season Nine of “American Idol,” but Crystal Bowersox was number one with the mostly SRO crowd at a Sacramento nightclub last night. The predominantly silver-haired AARP eligibles jumped at the chance to see the Portlandia version of Janis Joplin at Harlow’s on J Street, even if it meant standing in a packed room for several hours close enough to see the sweaty pores of the person next to them.
Hey Harlow’s, could you maybe invest in some ceiling fans if you’re going to stack people together like Thin Mints in a Girl Scout cookie box?
Happily, Bowersox’s performance was so powerful I would have enjoyed it frozen in Tree Pose in a hot Yoga room. The Ohio native sang some songs from her just-released album “All That for This,” including “Everything Falls into Place” and “Amen for My Friends.”
But as earthy and exquisite as her new songs were, it was her encore performance of “Me and Bobby McGee” (see video here) that seared my soul. Though not nearly as celebrated (yet!) as her musical big sister, Janis Joplin, not to mention the many other notables who recorded the 1960s classic — including Kris Kristofferson (its composer with Fred Foster), Gordon Lightfoot, Johnny Cash, Melissa Etheridge and Joan Baez to name a few — Bowersox has a way of making it sound like the song was written just for her. And she didn’t sound to shabby singing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” (see video here) either.
If I have one quibble with last night’s show, it’s that the Broadway bound star (she’s going to play Patsy Cline this summer) did not chat up her adoring fans. She provided a brief back story on “Amen to My Friends” and at one point lifted her large goblet of red wine and toasted “the good life,” but the modest tank-top-and-jeans-anti-diva didn’t say much else or even introduce her band members. Though I was a bit disappointed, I cut her some slack since she’s only 27 and has an appealing shyness I do not confuse with snobbery (unlike Bob Dylan who, when he performed at The Arena Formerly Known as Arco, didn’t even bother to speak to the lowly citizens of a second tier city with only one professional sports team that is now dangling by a thread).
But I digress.
My main takeaway from last night’s performance at Harlow’s is that “American Idol” serves a purpose besides making money for Fox, Coca-Cola and Ryan Seacrest. Amidst the many easy-to-look-at women with reasonably good voices who want to be the next Taylor Swift, occasionally a pure and powerful force like Crystal Bowersox emerges who would have almost no chance of becoming a household name were it not for that show.
In my 50-something years on this planet I have seen many iconic musicians perform live on stage — from Jerry Garcia and Don Henley of the Grateful Dead and the Eagles, to Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Jimmy Buffet, Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne; and in this Mount Rushmore of rock stars I would not hesitate to carve the face of Crystal Bowersox. She is that good.
More from this contributor:
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Will Kelly Clarkson’s Romance with Brandon Blackstock Help or Hurt Her Career?
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