I travelled from the North East down to London by train and arrived early-afternoon, well in advance of the concert, with high hopes of meeting Jewel for the third time. My sister who conveniently lives in London met me at the train station and we went back to her appartment so I could drop my things off but my plan was to make my way to the Festival Hall as soon as possible so our chances of meeting Jewel, perhaps as she arrived to do a soundcheck were at their highest.
Upon arriving at the hall, I was pleasantly surprised to see a number of people already there, gathered at the artists entrance. This seemed the most obvious place to stand and wait for Jewel, but I nevertheless had a wander around the perimeter of the building anyway to investigate the possibility of Jewel and her entourage using another entrance. There were two large grey stage trucks at the back of the building and numerous alternative entrances which worried me somewhat but realising that it was silly for my sister and I to linger at the back of the venue when everyone else was at the front, we decided to stand with everyone else. I was curious to know if any of the other people waiting at the artist's entrance were from the Jewel Message Board but was reluctant to introduce myself to anyone as I was with my sister - a non-Jewel fan, - and was concerned that getting into conversations with other people would leave her feeling something of a gooseberry. We eavesdropped on a few conversations and some people had been waiting since 10am that morning which showed great dedication as the weather was cold, grey and drizzly. It was nice to see people clutching copies of Jewel's poetry book, A Night Without Armor, and various other pieces of memorabilia, clearly hoping Jewel would sign them.
After about half an hour of standing around, we received notification from the RFH staff that Jewel had already arrived and entered the building via another entrance. Although we were reluctant to trust this information, it eventually became apparent that we had indeed missed her and naturally we were disappointed. I particularly felt bad for the people that had been standing there for almost 6 hours. Soon, a familiar face approached me and I was pleased to hear a friendly 'Hello' beckon my attention from the near distance. Chris Groves, webmaster of the excellent Pieces Of U.K Jewel site who I met at the Manchester 1999 concert and who was also kind enough to provide me with wonderful advice and information about Jewel when I first became a member of the EDA Mailing list in 1997 had arrived along with Michiel, the Crazy Dutch Jewel Fan who I had long been aware of via the EDA List but never actually met. I informed them both of the news that Jewel was already inside but we all chose to stay and chat anyway on the offchance she would come out and sign autographs at a later point in the afternoon. Michiel had some wonderful memorabilia with him including the 1997 Tiny Lights tour booklet and a great photo of him and Jewel together from Europe. Most notably though was his posession of the long-awaited project - The Jewel Lyric Book. In an attempt to get Jewel to play her rarer, acoustic material at the concert tonight, Michiel had decided to compile a selection of printed out sheets of the lyrics to these old songs so that if she refused to play a song request because she had forgotten the words, Michiel would be able to provide her with the lyrics so she could perform it. It was an impressive, well-made booklet with a fairly comprehensive range of lyrics included - many of my personal favourite songs were in there so I hoped that Michiel would get the opportunity to use his lyric booklet at some point during the concert.
Throughout the course of the afternoon, more fans arrived including Martin and Jeroen from the Jewel Forum and Peter who I remembered from the Manchester 1999 concert. It was nice that such a large group of Jewel fans could all pass the time and chat together outside the venue and speculate on how the concert would proceed.
The concert was due to start at 7.30pm but the doors opened earlier and we entered the building before 6pm. We all headed for the J-Merch merchandise stand which was being set up (rather slowly). I made sure I was right at the front because I was aware of how quickly certain items, namely T-Shirts would sell out. At 6.30pm the stand opened for business and unfortunately for some people, a barrier was set up to separate the crowd into two sections. Everyone on the left had to go to the back and stand behind the people on the right hand side, so those right at the front of the left hand side who had queued for 45 minutes were bitterly disappointed. Thankfully, I fell into the other category, and was right at the front of the queue. I purchased a Do You Want To Play T-shirt for £15 immediately which I had my eye on and also bought the Rhino journal for £7 and a set of photos which were housed inside a cardboard envelope, reminiscent of the old promotional Pieces Of You Handbook.
At 7.30pm prompt, the doors were opened and we were directed to our seats. I noticed immediately what a beautiful venue the Royal Festival Hall was. All of a sudden, being 8 rows back didn't seem so bad at all because the stalls area seemed so small and intimate. I was pleased with my seats, I had a great view, situated in the left aisle. Because the show started on time, there were a number of people arriving late and finding they had missed a song or two. This wasn't too disruptive to the show but I felt it was rude and ignorant of these people to not make more of an effort to arrive well in advance of the time stated on their ticket.
There was no support act tonight. Jewel opened for herself with a delightful acoustic set. Wearing a maroon top and with her blonde hair full of windswept vigour, she looked stunning and lit by a solitary spotlight, she began with a song I had not heard before. As she approached the chorus, I realised that this was A Long Slow Slide which I knew she had performed on her 2000/1 tour of the States. I fell in love with the song and its melancholy, introspective tone immediately and her rendition was perfect. The applause was rapturous and Jewel commented on how much she needed this show after endless promotional duties where she was being queried about her childhood more than her music. She seemed to be immediately in a chatty, playful and friendly mood and this exicted me greatly, I knew we were all in for a treat. She asked for requests straight away which was another promising sign and there were lots of shout outs for Cold Song, Race Car Driver and Daddy. I requested Nicotine Love as I did at the Manchester 1999 concert where, alas, my desperate calls weren't regarded. This time however, Jewel heard me, and responded 'Nicotine Love? OK where did you hear it?!' She was clearly still shocked to this day that an English fan could be aware of some of her rarer songs. I explained I had tapes of all of her unreleased songs to which she made a comment about me incriminating myself by confessing to owning bootlegs. This got a good laugh. Unfortunately, she said she couldn't remember how to play Nicotine Love (as I expected so I wasn't too disappointed, I enjoyed the banter all the same!)
A highlight of the acoustic set was an impassioned performance of Everything Breaks. It had been so long since I'd heard this song that I didn't even recognise the opening chords (admittedly she was playing it in a higher key than usual, but still). This particular rendition was captivating, yet painful to watch. The emotion on Jewel's face was palpable, she did on more than one occasion look as though she was about to burst into tears. It was unsettling, it felt bad to watch, like a car wreck, but in much the same way, I couldn't tear my eyes away from it. With the final strum of the song, Jewel thrust her pick to the floor. I was pleased to see Grey Matter included in this acoustic set. It has always been a big favourite of mine since its days as an unreleased gem. Seeing it appear as a bonus track on This Way leaves me with mixed feelings. It doesn't seem as special anymore now its officially an 'album track', but even this can't take away the fact it is a beautiful song. I had a giggle when she messed up the words a bit at the beginning.
Little Sister probably got the best cheer thus far during this acoustic opening. I was very pleased, not to mention surprised at this fact. I'd never thought Little Sister was a big favourite amongst Jewel fans but this proved otherwise. Perhaps the fact it was the first Pieces Of You-era song of the evening attributed to this. The song was performed faultlessly.
Rosy and Mick came next, another song I'd not heard but was aware of. Jewel introduced it as new, but Michiel whooped at its announcement as it is one of his favourites and Jewel commented that he came to far too many shows and that was why he knew of the song. I am sure Michiel was pleased Jewel recognised him!
A very special moment occured next. I requested Last Dance Rodeo after she commented the crowd were very quiet. Like with my Nicotine Love request she responded 'Last Dance Rodeo?!' and once again said it was a song she could not remember. She however promised she'd practise it in time for her tour later in the year. I asked her if she'd play it for me at the Manchester 2002 show I had bought tickets for and she said I would have to e-mail her to remind her! However, as Michiel had the lyrics to Last Dance Rodeo in his Lyric Book, he took his opportunity to approach the stage and show it to Jewel, who laughed and groaned that her fans were now so used to her protesting that she couldn't remember how to play her older songs that they'd gone and got organised on her and gone to the trouble of making a Lyric Booklet. Much to Michiel's shock and delight, Jewel invited him up on stage to hold the booklet whilst she performed his request, Does Anybody Believe In Love. I was not only thrilled to see Michiel on stage with Jewel having spent a lot of time with him prior to the show and enjoying his sprightly company greatly, this was the third Jewel song of the evening that I had not heard before so the acoustic set was turning into an absolute treat for the London fans! I can understand why Michiel was so keen for Jewel to play this song, it is lyrically and melodically stunning, and I'll never forget the moment when Jewel sang the line which mentions *two blue eyes* and she looked right into Michiel's. He must have melted on the spot! There were many giggles during the performance but they got through the whole song together without any hiccups and the crowd brought the house down with applause for both Jewel's performance and Michiel's bravery.
The set ended with the staple Angel Standing By which is always a treasure to hear, and Jewel bid farewell to the stage to momentous applause as she headed off for a break before returning with her band to finish off the show. During the interval, I raced down to the front of the stage where Michiel was seated to congratulate him and to discuss his experience with him, Chris and Jeroen. I had a flick through his Lyric Book and then handed it to Chloe, a girl also from the Jewel Forum who had come to say hello to Michiel. A lot of people told Michiel they had photos of his time on stage with Jewel, including the kiss he shared with her which I'm sure he'll never forget!
After 10-15 minutes of chatting, we all returned to our seats to prepare for Jewel and her band to return to the stage. The band all came out first and kicked off proceedings with my favourite song from This Way, I Won't Walk Away. Jewel slowly sauntered out towards her microphone and the audience went crazy. The stage was fairly dimly lit for most of this gorgeous, jazz flecked song and as the second chorus ended the stage exploded in a bath of blinding white light which lit the entire stage perfectly so we could finally see the full band and Jewel in all of their glory.
Most of the songs from This Way were played, except for, This Way (!) Cleveland and Serve The Ego. Standing Still, the single at the time ('which Radio 1 and Radio 2 won't play' commented Jewel) got a great applause, as did her mention of the recent Brit Awards and her less than favourable impression of Kylie Minogue. Jewel toyed with the photographers for a while and asked them how long they'd be taking pictures for as she just knew they'd capture a photograph of her in a compromising position pulling a strange face and it would end up in all of the newspapers.
Til We Run Out Of Road gave Jewel the opportunity to mention her rodeo champion boyfriend, Ty Murray who co-wrote the track with her. She made the crowd laugh when she mentioned Job Swop day in which spouses switch jobs for the day and Jewel had a go at riding a bucking horse.
Life Uncommon was the first and only track played from Spirit. In the past Jewel has said this is one of her favourite songs to perform live and indeed, her performance of this uplifting track is inspired, the passionate vocal improvisations adding a whole new dimension to the song. It was around this time when Jewel asked the audience if they liked to dance - clearly it was the point in the show when a series of upbeat songs would be played in sucession and if there was any time to get on your feet and have a dance, now was the time. A few random people including myself stood and clapped their way through Love Me Just Leave Me Alone and Everybody Needs Someone Sometime but there was no mass rush to the front to celebrate these entertaining songs.
The band set culminated with the scat version of Who Will Save Your Soul. I prefer the original version, especially the solo acoustic versions. It's hard to remember these days that this song is actually a social commentary, but nevertheless, only a fool could not enjoy the newer version of the song on at least, a purely entertainment level. Like on the Spirit Tour, the lead guitarist mimicked Jewel's vocal line and vice versa and there were vocal and lyrical improvisations aplenty. This song lasts for about 15 minutes and by the end the entire audience was on its feet applauding and whooping this superb performance and Jewel's screamed final note signalled the end of the band set and the beginning of another small break.
At this point, we all raced to the front awaiting an encore. I managed to get right to the front in the centre and climb up and position myself leaning against a speaker. Jewel re-appeared to rapturous applause and the opening chords on Steve George's keyboard signalled what we had all been quietly hoping to hear - Foolish Games. This was performed with all of the majesterial beauty we had come to expect by now and it was clear Jewel enjoyed seeing hundreds of people clamoured around the stage hanging off her every note. Next, she picked up her guitar and chatted a while and people were still yelling out requests - I requested Boy Needs A Bike - but she pleased us all by playing the opening chords of You Were Meant For Me. This heralded yet another concert highlight for me. A respectful chorus of fans singing along to the song loud enough for Jewel to hear but not to the point where it impeded with her performance - except for during the final chorus when Jewel actually stopped singing and let us finish off the song for her. I don't believe this many fans in England have ever sang along before, I have to say it almost brought a tear to my eye. You could visibly see the delight in Jewel's face, she was over the moon. Her next song was Per La Gloria D'adorarvi, an Italian aria which she performed at many shows on the Spirit Tour but I'd never seen her perform it live before. This was beautifully carried off. The show ended with Chime Bells after a barrage of requests for Jewel to yodel. She sang it in the new a capella style without the guitar accompaniment and she became almost inaudible towards the end as so many people were clapping and whooping and banging the stage in excitement as the yodelling picked up speed. She wished us all a great night and left the stage - everyone still making a tremendous racket wanting her to return but of course she didn't.
We weren't disappointed, what a night we had all experienced, the show was faultless. Solo acoustic and band sections, a varied and interesting set-list, Michiel's Magic Moment and most important of all, a happy and healthy Jewel who seemed to have enjoyed it all more than even we did! She later commented that this had been her favourite trip to Europe thus far and we were all left eager for her return to these shores in May for her full tour.
My sister and I finished off the night in a nearby pub with Chris, Michiel, his friends and brothers, Jeroen and Carl where we all had drinks and shared our highlights of this wonderful night. **PHOTOS COMING SOON!!!**