Jewel Triumphs

A star is born.

Last year was a wee bit strange for the 22-year-old Jewel, who

began the year playing clubs -- including a few in the Bay Area -- lucky if 20

people turned up to hear songs from her then-two-year-old record, Pieces of

You. Actually, it took about two and a half years before the re-release of

"Who Will Save Your Soul?" saw any kind of respectable airplay on radio

stations or MTV; before that Jewel had appeared once or twice on late-night

VH-1 but it seemed no one was ready for her music.

So it seemed ironic

Tuesday night (April 1) that Jewel performed to a sold-out crowd at Berkeley's

4,000-seat Community Theater, less than a year after being laughed out of

smaller venues. The singer gave abundant thanks to Tuesday's audience, and was

rewarded with not one, not two, but three standing ovations.

After

hilarious alterna-folk openers the Rugburns finished their set, Jewel took the

stage -- dark except for a wing of twinkling faux candles for which this, her

Tiny Lights Tour, is named -- and voiced an a capella verse of "Near You

Always" before taking to her guitar. Listeners who haven't heard Jewel perform

live before might be surprised at the volume of work she's amassed during her

years as a San Diego cafe performer; though she included several songs from

Pieces of Your in her set, they were balanced by older works and some

incredible new material -- some so new she made up the words as she went

along...



"Enter from the East," for instance, revealed a deeper,

sultrier alto melody than anything Jewel's done before, giving necessary weight

to lines like, "My heart has four empty rooms/Three wait for lightning/And one

waits for you" -- and yet her voice fluttered effortlessly into the upper

registers during the chorus. She was joined by a cellist, whose sweetly somber

performance blessed the song -- and others throughout the night.

During the

guitar intro to "Don't," a cheerful fan shouted out, "I love you, Jewel!"

causing her to flub her part and respond, "I know, but I hate it when

you do that. I always get so embarrassed. Thank you, though." She recovered

nicely; in fact, Jewel showed herself to be quite a self-assured performer,

weaving tales in between her songs.

At one point in the set Jewel invited

the Rugburns -- vocalist and guitarist Steve Poltz, bassist John Castro and

drummer Jeff Aafedt -- to join her. She told the story of how she and Poltz

(who share songwriting credits on a couple of Jewel's tunes) had taken a

vacation together and, wanting to go whale-watching, were invited by several

law enforcement officials out onto their boat. Halfway through the expedition,

they discovered the reason for the fuzz's boat trip was a marijuana bust. Jewel

and Poltz, stricken, were handed a pair of machine guns with which to help nab

the dealers. When the afternoon was finished, the cops offered them as much pot

as they could carry away.

"Our vacation was completely ruined," Jewel

commented, "but the point is, we got this song out of it," and the band

launched into "You Were Meant for Me." The Rugburns remained on-stage to back

Jewel for several songs including "Adrian," "Who Will Save Your Soul?" and a

few new numbers.

Jewel occasionally allowed her sense of humor to shine

through, as with "Cold Song," the cutest song ever written about sharing

the influenza virus (it even closes with an impossible Dr. Seuss-esque tongue

twister); she claims she wrote it in her sleep. Later, she played a number

called "Race Car Driver," a satirical piece on men who think with their, er,

cars: "I'm just a small man with a real big car," she warbled with ample irony.

In other moments, Jewel stretched her considerable vocal talents to their

limits, as with the yodeling chorus in her rocked-out version of "Chime Bells,"

at the end of which most of the audience was howling for her to yodel

faster. Another a cappella number -- this one sung in the style of those

wartime girl groups -- described the unfortunate effects an overly sultry night

might have on a lover's otherwise aroused condition.

Jewel often returned

to her more heartfelt songs, closing the two-hour set with a melancholy version

of "Amen" as a starry sky was projected onto the screens behind her. "Where are

my angels, where's my golden wand?" she sang in earnest. "Where is my hope now

that my heroes are gone?" Although Jewel often sings of the bleakness she sees

in the world around her, there's no doubt that her listeners has found a

heroine in her.