Sheryl Crow sure looked like a Jersey girl when she took the stage in Atlantic City on Friday night. In a sleeveless vest; thick, studded belt; black jeans; and square-toed biker boots, she resembled a tomboy Springsteen.
The musical presentation of this rocker chick was pretty brawny, too, as she ran through most of her most recent album, Detours, along with a generous sampling of her hits.
Crow got the mellow stuff out of the way right off the bat with a solo acoustic version of "God Bless This Mess."
Then it was off to the races. From the second song, a soaring "Shine Over Babylon" to the encore, a coiled "All I Wanna Do," she managed to connect with both the crowd and the music.
She was certainly a gracious hostess. "How are you doing?" she inquired of the crowd at the Borgata's Event Center. "You're looking well. You haven't aged a bit."
The compliment came right after one of the evening's highlights, a sidewinding version of "Leaving Las Vegas."
Other treats were a lusty sing-along rendition of "The First Cut is the Deepest" and "My Favorite Mistake," which had more sting than Indiana Jones' bullwhip.
An old pro, Crow proved she can deliver a deep and satisfying performance without breaking a sweat. One of her tricks: Even when she takes a song off, as she did on "Soak up the Sun," she still nails the chorus.
She's also quite proficient at building dynamics into her set. About 10 songs in, the mood got noticeably looser and more rowdy, as Crow pulled out the Stones and Faces influences in her repertoire for "Gasoline" and "There Goes the Neighborhood."
She then dialed it back to Fleetwood Mac-mode for the winsome "Detours" and "Strong Enough" before building to the climactic "Everyday is a Winding Road," which growled along like a muscle car with its muffler torn off.
Crow has a confident if not comfortable stage manner, looking somewhat lost when she doesn't have a guitar to strum. But she made few missteps musically, unless you count "Out of Our Heads," which sounded like something off the Mamma Mia soundtrack.
All night long, she was able to invigorate even her most familiar material by finding new textures in it. And that's no mean feat.
A California power trio, Rocco DeLuca and the Burden, delivered a charged opening set, with DeLuca whipping up some Spanish-castle magic on his slide Dobro. He seemed to be channeling the spirit of the late Jeff Buckley with his high, penetrating voice.
But the scruffy threesome looked somewhat discomfited to find themselves in a casino setting.