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Sheryl Crow takes Britt audience on tour of her music

Sheryl Crow was gabby.

"I'm just feeling like talking tonight," she told a nearly full house Friday night at a Britt-presented show at the Lithia Motors Amphitheater.

She talked about the winding road she had a couple years ago when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, got engaged to Lance Armstrong, got un-engaged from Lance and adopted her baby, Wyatt.

"It's the detours that help you figure out who you are," she said.

Which was all by way of introducing "Detours," a rootsy tune with a country bounce from the album of the same name.

Wearing tight jeans and spangly heels, long, blond hair falling over a black vest, she talked about jogging around Medford, about breakfast at the Red Lion, about taking Wyatt to the park (he liked it). She also said she'd never been here before, and nobody corrected her, unlike the other night at Britt when Diana Krall wasn't sure if she'd been here or not and the crowd told her she had. Crow played at the Britt Pavilion 15 years ago, when her first album, "Tuesday Night Music Club," was still fresh.

This visit came a day before the singer was to perform at Bumbershoot in Seattle and just a week before she is scheduled to join Sarah McLachlan and Neil Young in a benefit called Summer Sessions at Ambleside in West Vancouver, B.C.

Crow opened Friday's show with "A Change Will Do You Good," a moderate rocker from her self-titled 1996 album.

She asked if there were any gamblers in the crowd. Strippers? Drinkers? This led into the power pop of "Leaving Las Vegas" (sample lyric: "Life springs eternal on a gaudy neon street/not that I care at all/I spent the best part of my losing streak/in an army jeep for what I can't recall") .

Crow's set consists of loud, tight performances of short songs delivered in a sturdy mezzo-soprano with considerable range. She sometimes plays an acoustic Gibson, sometimes plays bass, sometimes puts her hands together and urges the audience to boogie, and even plays a little mouth harp.

16 Frames, a young, generic-sounding L.A. pop outfit, opened for Crow. It's singer/guitarist Steve Sulikowski's band, and the name refers to the speed at which film runs through a projector. A number called "I'll Be Better When You're Gone" stood out among the group's set of break-up tunes, but the set was uninspired in general and featured a spectacularly misguided cover of the Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want."

Crow is everywhere these days. But she taught music in elementary school and made McDonalds commercials before touring as a backup singer to Michael Jackson on the Bad tour in the late 1980s. She soon wound up in an ad hoc music collective that gave its name to her first album, which was produced by Bill Bottrell, another member of the group, and which spurred controversy over just what was written by whom. She got the idea for "All I Wanna Do" from a poetry book she found in a used book store near L.A.

Friday she sang a lot of old songs. A pleasing "Strong Enough," also from the first album, was countrified and challenging. A moment later she was singing about not crying anymore when the song morphed into the old Johnny Nash tune "I Can See Clearly Now" and began loping along in reggae time as if in salute to Jimmy Cliff.

"It's a goog thing I have people up here telling me what to do," she joked as a roadie passed her a guitar.

She played bass on Cat Stevens' "The First Cut is the Deepest" and told a story about a 6-foot 4-inch transvestite banned from a Pomona, Calif., coffeehouse.

Crow and the band had launched into a large-contoured performance of "If It Makes You Happy" when deadline called a reviewer away.

Crow is often billed as outspoken, as if she's a contrarian somehow going against the grain, when in fact her music is safe, accessible, user-friendly pop. Not that there's anything wrong with that, it just strikes you as you hear these competent arrangements of these pleasant songs. Once again, the vocals were a bit muddy in the reserved but clearer in the sweet spot on the lawn.