If it makes me happy

And you thought my Summerfest days were over!?

I’ve said it again and again about my concert experiences … And I’m saying it again again. Dreams came true last night …

We saw Sheryl Crow. Live. At Summerfest.

So worth it. The woman can rock.

A while back, in the midst of my summer concert mourning, I bargained with Kates for a Summerfest date as a last hurrah before we left K-Town for good. I conceded that I’d already seen Guster, OAR and Counting Crows multiple times -- as much as it pained me to give up a chance to see them again -- but reasoned, of all our options, if I had to pick one show, Sheryl Crow was the one I didn’t want to miss.

We stuck to the plan. Left Phoebe with the grandparents. And made the summer evening trek up I-94 once more to the World’s Largest Music Festival. … Walking on the grounds again felt like reuniting with an old friend. After these six long months and the chaotic weekend ahead of us, it was the ultimate escape.

With Ms. Crow scheduled for the Miller Lite Oasis, we headed there first and grabbed our food. Kates a white mocha and I a fresh made-to-order burger from Rupena’s, along with some chips and guacamole from La Perla, and -- of course -- my bucket of Mountain Dew from one of the manned barrels throughout the grounds.

By the time we began our search for seats around 7, Lynhurst was wrapping its set, and with three hours to go, there were surprisingly great spots available for Sheryl Crow. Kates and I slipped onto a bench in the seventh row, just right of center stage.

Around 8, the benches still weren’t filling, and I was itching to catch a glimpse of Colbie Caillat who had just begun performing two stages down at the Briggs & Stratton Backyard … “Go!” Kates said finally, and I was off before anyone could say “Bubbly.”

I sifted through the crowds and arrived at the packed Briggs & Stratton Backyard … I continued sifting and found an opening on a picnic table. I stepped onto the table and came up with a clear view of Colbie strutting across the stage in a sparkling silver dress.

She had just finished a song and told a story of her bout with stage fright early in her career. Then she went into “Fearless,” one of my favorites from her latest album.

The song sounded even more lovely live, and it was all I needed to hear. Having heard one full song and feeling satisfied, I jumped off the table and walked back to the Oasis.

I soaked up the Summerfest scenes along the way … At the Harley-Davidson stage, The Tempters were revving up a crowd with “Get Ready” and twirling in white suits.

I strolled past the Milwaukee Bucks draft party at the SportsZone just as Cole Aldrich‘s name was being announced. I saw the kid who’s always doing tricks and juggling on a unicycle. And the grills were fired up with mouth-watering food.

Back at the Oasis, Kates and I still had plenty of breathing room around us, and Tyrone Wells had taken the stage … The guy was good, and Kates and I took a liking to his folk-pop sound. A highlight of his set was a covers medley of Train’s “Soul Sister,” Maroon 5’s “She Will Be Loved” and Leona Lewis’ “Bleeding Love.” (I'm not a fan of Leona's version, but Wells' toned-down version made it worth listening to.)

As the clock struck 9, Orrin and Kelli joined us for the show … Soon after that, the fireworks started popping over the lake behind us. A June night in Milwaukee at its finest …

Then, around 10, the stage went dark, and the silhouettes of her band members started appearing on the stage. And finally, Sheryl Crow appeared wearing a pink top, black pants and a gobs of huge rings on her fingers.

I’ve admired Sheryl Crow since she hit the radio waves and I was hitting high school in 1994. Her “Tuesday Night Music Club” album was one of the first CDs I bought, and “Leaving Las Vegas” and “All I Wanna Do” still rank among my all-time favorite songs; the album is arguably the best of her long career … Then you start thinking of all the other things she’s done -- touring with Michael Jackson and accompanying a ton of other musical legends, acting, beating breast cancer, nearly becoming Mrs. Lance Armstrong. The woman is a pop music legend in her own right.

She opened her set with “Hole In My Pocket” and gave us a taste of what we were in for with a loud, rocking “Everyday Is A Winding Road.” … Another Crow song I always relish is the pounding “Can’t Cry Anymore,” and her live version delivered, which she weaved with a verse of “I Can See Clearly Now” (just like this). She also interjected a bit about flying into Milwaukee the night before, saying “That was a hell of a storm you guys had here.” I knew; I was flying to Milwaukee Wednesday night, too.

Here's a snippet of Crow doing "Everyday Is A Winding Road" ... As usual, the video does it no justice. The loud music is too overpowering for my little camera.

The band, which included a pair of background vocalists, was tight. The guitars were roaring. With Crow on the organ for a few songs, they went off for a jam on nearly every other song.

But the first half of the show also had a distinct mellow vibe to it, which, in a way suited the older crowd well. Several songs carried a slight country twang.

Crow really mellowed things midway through with a series of slower tracks, starting with “The First Cut Is the Deepest” -- even while two beach balls bobbed around the crowd. On “Strong Enough” she strummed her guitar and endeared the crowd, rambling “… I want a man who has a job … I don’t care if he makes more money than me …”

As she strummed the opening of “Picture,” Crow teased the crowd by saying, “I’d like to bring Kid Rock out …” She paused, and the crowd cheered, before she added, “I really would but he’s probably in a bar drinking somewhere.” … Instead we were treated to her bassist singing Kid Rock’s portion on the last half of the song, skillfully doing his part on the wailing lyric “I was off to drink you away!”

The band showed more life as Crow uncovered the Terrence Trent D’Arby song "Sign Your Name." Each of the band members went solo for a few bars, including the drummer who was sweating like a hog and drawing louder cheers as the night went on with a few terrific solos.

Then, the band amped the energy level way up … They belted out “All I Wanna Do” and a high-energy, crowd-singing “If It Makes You Happy” that was arguably my favorite song of the night … I recognized the opening whine of “Soak Up The Sun” immediately and shot my arms in the air, excited for another sing-along … Crow ended her opening set with “Steve McQueen,” a song I’ve never admired, but the band’s all-out energy on it, along with another extended jam, had me changing my mind. I can’t get the song out of my head this morning.

After the band did their customary leave-the-stage-let-the-crowd-cheer-and-return bit, Crow did a great-sounding take on “A Change Would Do You Good” -- an appropriate song for the weekend.

And then the stellar finale. Bolstered by the last few songs of Crow’s opening set, the energy level shot higher with every song … When the drummer started tapping out the opening beats of Led Zeppelin’s “Rock n’ Roll,” Orrin and I looked at each other and hollered. We knew exactly what was coming and so did most of the crowd. “It's been a long time since I rock and roooooooolled!” … The band delivered a screaming good version of the song, capped with a drum solo that would not end. (It’s been added to the list ... There's footage of a much earlier version here.)

The last note played out. The crowd cheered. The band gathered at center stage and took their bows.

This morning I’m dealing with a Summerfest hangover, though alcohol intake has nothing to do with it. The symptoms are ringing ears, the slight headache, the remnants of secondhand smoke in my throat, a hoarse voice and the memories of a fantastic night.

So worth it.

Here’s Sheryl Crow’s set list …
1. Hole in my Pocket
2. Everyday Is A Winding Road
3. Can’t Cry Anymore
4. 100 Miles to Memphis (new song)
5. My Favorite Mistake
6. The First Cut is the Deepest
7. Summer Day (new song)
8. Home
9. Strong Enough
10. Picture
11. Sign Your Name (Terrence Trent D’Arby cover)
12. All I Wanna Do
13. If It Makes You Happy
14. Soak Up the Sun
15. Steve McQueen
16. A Change Would Do You Good
17. Rock n’ Roll (Led Zeppelin cover)

Also see: The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's comprehensive Summerfest guide.

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