From storytelling to addressing talking guests to yodeling, Jewel’s performance in Sun Valley, Idaho, brings a moment of control to a world that seems to need it.
On August 24th, among the smoke and the sun, the seats of the Sun Valley Pavilion harbored a chorus of audience responses that were all modifications on a single theme: “Her voice is out of control.”
That statement is in and of itself ironic, particularly in this case where “out of control,” means, in fact, too good to believe. Jewel carries a voice with command and control; and a musical power that we didn’t anticipate.
We Sun Valley residents walked into the Pavilion carrying anxieties of the last year and a half, amplified by recent news and transmissions. We traversed into our seats weighted by questions, covered in masks, trusting that our strangers weren’t going to get us sick. Things outside of our control. We carried questions. Can the sounds of my youth really save my soul? Can the nostalgic sound of Jewel cure COVID anxieties? Before we entered and sat, we seemed lost in the current confusing climate.
Jewel’s belts and bellows and volume shifts lifted us out of our heads and out of the chaotic world. The vocal control that managed to pierce through those thoughts stunned crowd members into audible awe. “She’s so good.” “It’s crazy.” “How?” Eventually, that command of her voice and the echo of her notes and the guitar silenced the room during Jewel’s song “Standing Still,” even though before, she had to request for the conversations in the bar area to quiet down for a new song entry. And as fans and guests focused in, Jewel poured her heart into a brand new song with her own questions, like, “why are women still fighting for equal pay?”
Jewel’s singles and familiar tunes had new power and new tones in this environment. Solo on stage, a song like “Intuition” embodied less of a pop ditty but more of a searing comment punctuated with guitar. Her first song, an a cappella version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” was presented as both an opener and a tone setter: this show might be something different; a demonstration of control across songs and spheres, including the personal kind.
Alongside that voice, alongside that control, Jewel carries her own stories and her personal journey. She shared much of that with the audience including leaving her home at 15 to escape an abusive environment, and her determination to not be the victim in her narrative. Her story drew her to creating the Inspiring Children foundation, which in turn has a top-ranked tennis academy. Her story now comes to Sun Valley, Idaho, a small mecca for Californians and a ski-town devoted to “Mt. Baldy,” complete with glitter applied to lips with eyelash adhesive.
“A lot of people don’t know these tidbits,” Jewel quipped as she launched into another backstory before a song; sharing the history of each song to help provide context or a joke or two. Her tales and jokes revolved around San Diego, cafes, T-Rex arms, reverse heckling, and in one case, drug smugglers and whale watching in Mexico (speaking of dinosaurs, and stories, Jewel joined the Wood River Valley for a lunch presentation at the Sinclair Distributors Conference, hosted at the Sun Valley Lodge). For the record, those latter two are part of the true story behind the creation of “You Were Meant For Me.”
Part of Jewel’s personal story joined her on stage. Spinning in a chair in the corner, a child in a tie-died sweatshirt with a giant smiley face was Jewel’s only companion. Eventually, Jewel introduced her son, Kase, who joined for two songs during the evening. He gently serenaded the Sun Valley audience during “Blowin’ in the Wind,” and, during an encore that also featured yodeling, shared a family song; a tune that Jewel’s Aunt taught her, and she in turn taught Kase.
As the storytelling and the vibrato came to an end, and the small Idaho community masked up and trekked back up the Pavilion stairs. They were met with the Sinclair logo, shining brightly on the stairs, illuminating the return back to the chaotic world, broken just for a night by a controlled vocal journey.