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Jewel puts on a variety show

Review

From blues to polka, from love to politics, the singer covers a lot of ground at Britt

JACKSONVILLE ' When a zealous fan got too gabby during Jewel's concert at the Britt Festival Friday, the singer silenced her with a joke.

Look, it's MY show; zip it! she teased.

Just kidding, Jewel added, only a hint of irony in her voice. It's OUR show.

All kidding aside, it really was.

From the moment the 27-year-old singer stepped on stage, she proved that a two-year hiatus from touring did nothing to diminish her rapport with a crowd. Equipped only with a couple of guitars, a dose of charisma and her wide-ranging voice, Jewel Kilcher offered the audience a heaping helping of authenticity.

Pace yourself, kittens, she purred to throngs of young women shrieking themselves silly as the show began.

And then the quixotic artist launched into a show that displayed her talents in all their variety.

There was her voice, which moves from a barely audible, little-girl whisper to a full-throated growl in seconds.

There was her songwriting, which ranges from let's go back to bed love songs to the political criticism of The New Wild West, sometimes all in the same tune.

And there was her musical diversity, which offers ballads in styles shifting from blues to country to Dylan to polka without batting an eyelash.

Jewel is now well into the tour for This Way, the album that followed her break from the business. After selling 23 million copies of her first three albums in five years, she told interviewers she was worn down by the grind of playing and promoting.

The result of the hiatus is an album that has gained critical acclaim and an apparently happier, healthier artist, who now tours three weeks and then takes 10 days off to recharge.

Her Jacksonville show revealed all the facets of a woman who appears onstage in tight jeans, a sparkly tank stop and stilettos to sing songs urging society to end the mutual sexual exploitation of women and men.

Particularly effective numbers included Sometimes It Be That Way, Jewel's tribute to Bob Dylan ' who did NOT come on to her in a dressing room, she noted ' Break Me and her best-selling Hands.

In the end, only kindness matters, she sang to a crowd that already knew it.

Opening for Jewel was Stuart Mathis, an acoustic singer with one of those raspy tenors that should land him on a radio near you one day.

He sang ably, accompanying himself on guitar, banjo and harmonica. It was amazing that he could be heard, however, over the chatter of concertgoers who apparently believe it's optional to actually listen to the music.

When a cell phone rang during Jewel's set, people from rows around were amazed that the person not only answered it, but offered an impromptu review to the caller. Sigh.

Reach reporter JoNel Aleccia at 776-4465, or e-mail