(Windsor, Ontario, Canada) January 23, 2009 - What precludes a novice musician who can bang out three or four chords on an acoustic guitar from becoming the next musical phenomenon? How can iconic artists the likes of Dylan, Young and Springsteen captivate an audience without overdone stage props and pyrotechnical wizardry? Anyone who has aspired to pursue a career in the finicky business of music has probably asked themselves questions similar to these at some point in their journey. Though there may have been a handful of acts that seemed to have caught unsuspecting audiences off guard and attracted them to something other than their music, true talent and longevity boils down to two things, “a voice” and “a song”. Though easy to assume it is quite difficult to fully understand this most basic of facts. It is an art in itself to develop a unique voice and equally as difficult to craft a well-structured song which is both lyrically and tonally appealing to masses of people. Therefore, let us not overlook the term “art” when referring to an accomplished musical artist.
Seeing “Jewel” Kilcher (Yes, Jewel is her given birth name) perform solo acoustically confirmed these thoughts even further. Inside the Colosseum at Caesars Windsor Casino, a 5,000 soft-seater venue, she skilfully captivated fans for a remarkable two hours. Armed with only two guitars (one in standard tuning and the other open tuning), a microphone and many personal stories and anecdotes, Jewel offered up the ingredients which have carried her successfully through her 13 year career in the music industry.
Though a modest guitarist, it was her distinctive voice and creative song writing which allowed her and few others before her to pull off such an event. Beginning the evening with the beautiful a cappella version of “Over the Rainbow”, those unfamiliar with Jewel’s material were quickly aware of the incredible vocal timbre and control of this Alaskan-born beauty. Now 33, she began performing early on in life alongside her father Atz Kilcher, forming a duo and singing at Veterans clubs, bank openings, biker bars and honky-tonks all over the state.
Jewel unmistakably confirmed her capabilities with a delicately pure yet occasionally raspy vocal tone. Her show mirrored the many lessons taught by her father to never create a set list, but to read a crowd instead. Joking and laughing with her audience was also a lesson from her former mentor as she endearingly referred to him throughout the evening.
With her strength in song writing well in tact, staple hits “Standing Still”, “Hands” and “I Was Meant For You” gave way to newer music like “The Shape of You“, a beautifully written sentimental ballad about losing someone close.
The intimate setting and modest instrumentation generated the feeling of being in a small club listening to a very personal performance. With the cleverly woven storytelling throughout the night to set up the creation and meaning of most songs, fans couldn’t help but focus more on the lyrical content to clearly understand their significance.
Jewel’s style of song writing is that of storytelling. Quirky yet symbolic of this approach was the odd hit “Race Car Driver” which was conceived through an early hitchhiking experience where she was picked up by a man who had a fascination for fast cars. Mega-hits “Foolish Games” as well as show finale “Who Will Save Your Soul” came supplied with a set up from her life raised in poverty.
Coincidentally, across the river from Caesars Windsor is Detroit, Michigan, where Jewel performed for the first time solo at age 15 without her father at a local high school. Here she raised the remaining money needed to subsidise her partial scholarship after being accepted to Interlochen, a fine arts school in Michigan.
Apart from her playful demeanour in between songs, another comical highlight was a quick reference she made to her binder of music which was left on top a small table helping to set the mood. This apparently necessary after taking a request from a fan to perform an obscure song which she forgot the lyrics to. However her experience in clubs, allowed her clever wit to offset an otherwise awkward moment. Also, accepting questions in an informal forum, Jewel allowed fans to enquire into her personal life. This later accompanied by an invitation to a fan for an impressive impromptu yodelling lesson.
A true American singer, songwriter, actress, poet, painter and humanitarian, Jewel finds herself now delving into the country music genre with the 2008 release of her seventh studio album “Perfectly Clear“. As touring remains part of Jewel’s core within her demanding schedule, she continues to be grateful to the industry and to her fans and seems never to be “Standing Still”.