Wisdom, family, and bacon: Crystal Bowersox plays Highline Ballroom to an intimate sit-down crowd.
That’s all it takes to listen to a Crystal Bowersox song, live, and know it’s special. It’s the kind of song opening that makes your head turn as you fixate your eyes on the stage ahead; the delicious melding of guitar, mandolin, and keyboard dancing about your ears at the same time. You know you’re witnessing something special. And about 100 people at the Highline Ballroom were lucky enough to have that unforgettable experience last week by seeing Crystal and her crew on October 21.
The show started with a poll about baseball (“Cubs? Mets? Blue Jays?”) and included a “sune” (song+tune, a new word created by Crystal that night) about bacon. At no point did Crystal chat about her American Idol history. Crystal was, rather famously, the runner-up on the ninth season of American Idol in 2010, losing to rocker Lee DeWyze. During her storied run, she garnered a huge fan following, including Idol judge Ellen who loved her so much she once claimed “If you make an album, I’m gonna buy it…If you make a salad, I’ll eat it.”
Now, five years later, Crystal’s music has matured along with her looks. She’s traded in her dreadlocks and piercings for a black hat, tall boots, and a leather jacket. It’s a sophisticated yet country inspired look to match the steps she’s taken in her musicality. Crystal’s voice carries fire and soul and moves you from the first note. What separates her now from her American Idol image is the strength of her songs, and her collaboration with her bandmates. Together, on the air of the mandolin and harmonies of the keys, the trio that played the Highline were unstoppable.
Every song came with its own introduction; an explanation of its existence Her songs are full of wise one liners: Home is the place where the green grass grows, for example. You will walk away from her show with an appreciation of Crystal’s approach to life, and of course, she shared her philosophies on stage: “Make more choices out of love not fear,” “There’s nothing more magical than a room full of singing voices,” oh, and of course, “Wrap everything in bacon.”
Things when from frying to crying (bacon to tears) relatively quickly courtesy of the encore tear montage. Considering the themes of motherhood, transition, and struggle,the night wouldn’t be complete with a few tears. Tonight they came by way of several haunting and moving renditions of “Landslide” and “Hallelejah.” You could feel the entire audience suck in their breath, and wait, as Crystal launched in the Jeff Buckley classic. We anticipated magic, and we weren’t disappointed. In fact, the audience wanted the magic to continue. Fans yelled “Keep it going!” as the set concluded.
Again and again at the Highline, Crystal proved what we already knew to be true: You don’t have to win American Idol to be a musical idol. She is easily becoming one with with every note.