Review of concert from 1999-07-25: Woodstock, NY
SonicNet, 1999-07-28
- Frank Tortorici


[ Sun., July 25, 1999 11:13 PM EDT ]

Woodstock '99 Report #55: Jewel Adored, Elvis Costello Ignored

While young singer/songwriter gets a warm reception, punk-era songsmith is heckled.

Contributing Editor Frank Tortorici reports:

ROME, N.Y. — Two singer/songwriters — veteran Elvis Costello and current sensation Jewel — received widely different reactions to their back-to-back sets at Woodstock on Sunday afternoon (July 25).

Not surprisingly, the younger Jewel proved a much bigger hit with the largely teenage crowd.

Costello, a punk-era veteran whose first album, My Aim Is True, came out in 1977, played the east stage first, offering a set of relatively bright and bouncy renditions of his best-known songs largely stripped of their edgy origins. He was accompanied only by his acoustic guitar (he switched to electric late in the set) and longtime sideman Steve Nieve's piano and keyboard.

"I'm very bored," 20-year-old Connecticut resident Matt Parmalee said as Costello (born Declan McManus) played such early staples as "Accidents Will Happen" and "Pump It Up." "I don't know who this person is. I never heard of him."

Not even a rendition of pop composer Burt Bacharach's "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" (RealAudio excerpt), which Costello and Bacharach perform together in the movie "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me," was enough to get through to a listless, apparently confused crowd. A few screams of "you suck" could be heard.

Costello did stripped-down versions of hits "Veronica" and "Everyday I Write the Book" along with obscurities such as "New Amsterdam," which he turned into a medley with the Beatles' "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away."

He also broke into bits of Duran Duran's "Rio" and Blondie's "Heart of Glass," and reprimanded a pay-per-view cameraman. "F--- off for a minute and let me sing," he said. "After the first 500 pictures they're just as ugly." Only during that moment and during a sing-along version of "Pump It Up," the set closer, did any hint of Costello's punk origins surface.

"I hope you like our new direction," Costello said to dead silence.

Jewel (born Jewel Kilcher), by contrast, was greeted with deafening cheers as she walked onstage in a black halter top and black high heels.

More heavily made up than usual, Jewel opened with "Near You Always" from her debut album, Pieces of You (1995). Hordes of young girls began mouthing her every word.

"Please don't bring me flowers/ They're only whispers of sweet things you say," she sang, establishing her hippie-chick persona at a show for which it seemed particularly appropriate.

"Today I have the coolest job in the world, I think," Jewel said, as she looked over the sea of Woodstock festival-goers.

Jewel evoked Janis Joplin, an icon from the original Woodstock, as her usually sweet crooning turned into husky belting on "Deep Water" (RealAudio excerpt), from Spirit (1998).

On "Foolish Games" (RealAudio excerpt) she drew out the last syllable of "you're breaking my heart" for 30 seconds, during which her face contorted like that of a silent film actress.

Jewel wiggled like actress Marilyn Monroe as she performed her first big hit, "You Were Meant for Me," to which she added some scat singing in the style of the late jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald.

Jewel introduced three new numbers, including what may be the hardest rocker she's ever written, "I'll Take You Downtown." The new songs also included the amusing "Your Race Car Driver."

During the latter she sang about being in a speedster: "It's better than watching 'Star Trek' after you've smoked weed."

"I wrote this song 'cause I believe in people as much as I believe in angels," Jewel said when introducing the encore "Angel Standing By," from Pieces of You. The performance ended with her trademark yodeling.

"I like the inflections in her voice when she sings," 18-year-old Kristy McDonnell, of Massachusetts, said. "And [that] all her lyrics revolve around [her] personal life."