Jewel Adds Some Spirit To Xmas Tree Lighting

Folk-pop singer performed 'Hands' Wednesday at annual lighting ceremony in New York's Rockefeller Center.

NEW YORK -- While Garth Brooks and Cyndi Lauper sang Christmas songs during the annual lighting ceremony Wednesday for the huge Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center, Jewel used the opportunity to promote her new single.

The Alaskan folk-pop star sang "Hands" (RealAudio excerpt) in the shadow of the several-stories-tall Norway Spruce, which was lit by country superstar Brooks and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton later in the nationally televised ceremony.

"Hands" is the first single from Jewel's Spirit, which came out Nov. 17 and debuted at # 3 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. Jewel has said she originally planned Spirit as a Christmas album, and though she changed her mind, the determinedly inspirational single still seems appropriate for the season.

"We wanted to see Garth Brooks -- just kidding," said Lauren Wicoda, 18, who joined the tens of thousands of people who turned out for the annual lighting ceremonies overlooking the famed skating rink at Rockefeller Center. "Actually, we wanted to see Jewel and Cyndi Lauper."

Wearing tan leather pants and a loose-fitting, hooded brown sweater, Jewel took the stage following a chorus-line dance by the world-famous Radio City Music Hall Rockettes. She sang such lines as "I will get down on my knees and I will pray ... we are God's hands" in a breathy whisper. She even tacked on a new lyric to the end of the song, singing the words "reflections of God" repeatedly as the TV cameras panned to a wreath hanging overhead.

Later, she joined country sensation Brooks, '80s new-wave pop-star Lauper (who released the holiday album Merry Christmas … Have a Nice Life on Oct. 27), R&B singer/songwriter Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds and country singer Trisha Yearwood for a spirited rendition of the holiday classic "Jingle Bells."

Pedestrians jammed the streets around Rockefeller Center, and police sealed the area off two hours before the performances began. A New York police spokesman said there was no official crowd estimate as of Thursday morning (Dec. 3), but the Daily News put the figure at around 200,000 people.

"It feels like New Year's Eve out here," said Carrie Meconis, 18, who was able to get no closer than the steps of St. Patrick's Cathedral, several blocks from the tree, where she sat with several friends.

Brooks, whose Double Live is the country's top-selling album, got the warmest welcome of any of the singers. He performed two Christmas standards, one as a duet with Yearwood, before helping light the massive tree.

The crowd was at its loudest the moment the lights were turned on, suggesting that perhaps the musicians' appeal remained secondary to that of the Christmas season.