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Photograph by George Sakkestad

Jewel engaged in friendly banter with her fans.

Fire and Ice

Jewel gave a warm performance on a cold night at the Mountain Winery

By Sarah Quelland

ALL THAT NOISE about Jewel having a meltdown at the Hampton Beach Ballroom Casino in New Hampshire was hogwash, if her solo acoustic appearance at the Mountain Winery in Saratoga last Thursday (June 17) was any indication. Though Jewel's set lists vary from show to show, the stories she tells are pretty much the same every night. While that rowdy casino crowd didn't understand her humor and took her words out of context, the Winery fans were delighted as she regaled them with bizarre tales of her hitchhiking escapades, run-ins with stalker dentists and superfreaks, and her fascination with commercials for social-anxiety drugs.

It was a bracingly cold night in the mountains, and Jewel's fans, a mix of families, couples and single men, were huddled in blankets and bundled in winter clothes. Jewel stepped out wearing body-hugging blue jeans, a casual blazer over her shirt and athletic shoes. She immediately began "Near You Always."

"OK, it's really cold," she laughed at the end, strumming her guitar. "Are any of you in tank tops?" she asked sympathetically. "You deserve an extra drink!" Throughout the night, Jewel proved to be affable, witty, sarcastic and melodramatic. She's an entertaining comedian and a dramatic storyteller. In addition to highlights from her studio albums ("Hands," "Standing Still," "Intuition," "Foolish Games," "You Were Meant for Me"), Jewel played a number of unrecorded gems. Informing the crowd that the night was being recorded both for Instant Live (where for $25 fans can take home a CD of the concert they just saw) and for her next album, she playfully threatened, "No sneezing during new songs, or I will choke you."

After sending "Passing Time" out to "All my homey stalkers, yo," Jewel asked the crowd, "What else do you feel like hearing?" A barrage of song requests flew toward the stage and one guy screamed out "Inspiration!"

"Inspiration?" Jewel asked. "I don't think I wrote a song called 'Inspiration.' You might want to check with your wife or girlfriend, 'cause I think it's called 'Intuition'!" she yelled with mock rage.

Following the heartsick "Everything Breaks," she asked the crowd, "You like country music at all?" Rewarded with whoops and hollers, she jokingly replied, "I hate it." She then played "So Close to Heaven," which she said she intended to shop to country singer Trisha Yearwood.

When a hot drink was delivered from backstage after "Little Sister," Jewel picked it up gratefully. "You're jealous of my tea, aren't you?" she asked, taking a loud sip. When someone called out, "What's in that tea?" she replied "Heat is in this tea, if you must ask. My fingers are getting numb. I'm playing clumsily."

Despite the shivering cold, Jewel's voice was in top form and full of power and finesse. She showed off her range from sweet to brassy on "Down So Long," and during one incredible section, she coaxed a vocoder effect from her voice, au naturel.

"What else?" she said, bouncing from the cold. "You wanna hear a brand-new song?" she asked. "I just wrote this about a week ago, and I haven't played it very much, so I need to practice." She proceeded to play one of the most intimate and revealing numbers of the night, a song about the illusion and emptiness of fame. On the aching and autobiographical tune, she sang, "There is a difference between dreaming and pretending / I did not find paradise / It was only a reflection of my lonely mind searching for what was missing in my life."

Now 30, Jewel seems to be re-evaluating her priorities. She bowed out of Wave, a movie she was set to produce and star in. She's had second thoughts about releasing her book of love poems. Mostly, she seems content right now to focus on her music and to spend her free time with her boyfriend, retired rodeo champion Ty Murray. As the brand-new song suggested, "I crave reality."

Jewel seemed perfectly sound at Winery, and she played a generous 16-song set that ended with a dazzling rendition of "Who Will Save Your Soul." After exiting the stage, she quickly returned. "OK, I'm doing a fast encore, 'cause we're all freezing," she announced, breaking into "Chime Bells," which showcased her yodeling ability. "I love you! Have a good night!" she said with a wave, taking her tea and walking backstage.


Send a letter to the editor about this story to letters@metronews.com.


Pieces of Jewel

Stills from Jewel's June 17 appearance at the Mountain Winery in Saratoga

Photographs by George Sakkestad

Jewel


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From the June 23-29, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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