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[whitespace] Jewel Shines

The luminous folk star dazzled the audience at Villa Montalvo's Mountain Winery

By Sarah Quelland

Because Villa Montalvo in Saratoga is known as an artists' retreat, visiting performers (at both Montalvo and its sister stage, the Mountain Winery) are granted greater artistic license than they are at more traditional venues. Often, appearances are special bookings unrelated to regular promotional tours, and although Jewel does have a new book of poetry coming out soon (Chasing Down the Dawn), her concert Sept. 27 at the Mountain Winery seemed more like a fun break from routine than just another gig.

Rather than sticking to any rigid set list, the 26-year-old modern folk-pop star took the opportunity at this intimate gathering to share as many stories as songs, and she limited the number of commercial hits she played in favor of gems from her vast repertoire of unrecorded material.

Material Girl

With two nights (Sept. 26-27) lined up at the outdoor venue, Jewel had some downtime in the Bay Area.

"I went shopping," she announced, showing off the body-hugging blue denim outfit and new shoes she was wearing. Then, quickly switching subjects, she revealed, "I've never been one of those people that likes taking pictures."

Because songs from her two multiplatinum albums (Pieces of You and Spirit) tend toward more serious subjects, it was exciting to find her so conversational, lighthearted and funny.

Making the appreciative audience laugh, she said that when prepping for a photo shoot she lies about her size. "What size is Ashley Judd?" she asks the stylist. "I'm that size, pretty much, basically, kind of."

Jewel's a much better role model than the Britney Spears and Christina Aguileras of the world. Her girlish image and naive innocence are more down-to-earth, wholesome and attainable than those of the pop superteens, and her healthy weight and imperfect teeth are part of her friendly, girl-next-door appeal.

But she seems dogged by people determined to correct her "flaws." She was surprised when an ad she did for Tommy Hilfiger came out. "He leaves my love handles and straightened my teeth!" she exclaimed: "I can't believe he did it--fucker!" She also talked about a fan in New York who approached her because her boss, a cosmetic dental surgeon, really wanted to fix Jewel's teeth. Which, Jewel explained to the Winery crowd, meant, "I'm not just a country hick, I'm a country hick with bad teeth." But, she said with a smile, "I'm not gonna fix my teeth yet."

Amazing Grace

Jewel's poetic grace and presence were enchanting whether she was speaking or singing, and the night had the feel of an episode of VH-1's Storytellers (the performance was being recorded for some type of webcast). In between anecdotes, Jewel sang several songs from Pieces of You, including "Who Will Save Your Soul" and "Little Sister," along with selections from Spirit: "Deep Water," "What's Simple Is True" and "Innocence Maintained."

Jewel's former flame Steve Poltz, who opened the show, joined her onstage during her set for a flirty duet on "You Were Meant for Me," along with songs from his own album, One Left Shoe ("Silver Lining" and "I Thought I Saw You Last Night"). Poltz co-wrote the hit "You Were Meant for Me" and is featured in the video, and Jewel asserted "We write really good songs together. He's the only one I can write songs with."

The whole night had a spontaneous quality. During "Don't," Jewel paused. "Uh oh," she said, losing her place and appealing to the audience to help her out with the lyrics. She took requests as well (including the cute "Cold Song"), but when asked to sing "Carnivore" she had to decline. "You know, I almost learned 'Carnivore,' but I didn't. I've been teaching myself my own songs backstage."

With more than 100 original songs to choose from, Jewel also performed special songs that aren't available on her albums, such as "Gray Matter," "Too Darn Hot," "Sometimes It Be That Way" and "Race Car Driver," along with some lovely material that sounded new.

Everyday Angel

Thanks to her ethereal vocals, Jewel can sound like a musical angel with an acoustic guitar rather than a harp for her instrument. The most profound moment of the evening came when she quietly told the audience, "This is a song I don't play ever. I wrote this for my best friend in the whole world. She died about a year ago with cancer."

Her voice was exquisite as she remembered her friend's "violet eyes" and mourned, "Time can seem as fragile as a looking glass." Her voice trembled with emotion as she sang, "If I could write a postcard to you and know that somehow it could get through/I don't know if I could express this aching in my chest/I guess I'll always miss you."

One of this Alaska native's most distinctive traits is her ability to yodel. It's a skill that never fails to win over an audience, and one that every audience demands. After checking her watch and realizing she was running out of time--the Mountain Winery has a strict curfew--she assured the crowd, "I'm gonna yodel," before dazzling her fans with a traditional song called "Chime Bells."

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From the October 5-11, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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