NEW YORK -- The "Women in Music: 1960-1999" concert Monday night began with traditional tales of woe from a veteran African-American folksinger, Odetta, and ended with the plucky folk-pop of a current hitmaker, Jewel.
There were a few odd juxtapositions on the way from Odetta to Jewel -- such as Odetta being followed by '70s pop star Helen Reddy -- in a show that raised money for the Fonda/Turner Project, a family-planning effort sponsored by media mogul Ted Turner and his wife, actress Jane Fonda, while occasionally aiming a spotlight on what it's like to be a woman in the music industry.
Five other women performed on the bill at the Theater at Madison Square Garden, most of them folk-influenced singer/songwriters: Paula Cole, Judy Collins, Janis Ian, Phoebe Snow and Mandy Barnett.
But the audience, judging from the noise it made, was Jewel's.
The 24-year-old confessional songwriter from Alaska, dressed in jeans and a black, spaghetti-strapped top, trotted out one hit after the other: the new "Deep Water," her recent top-10 single "Hands" (RealAudio excerpt) and three smashes from her 1995 debut, Pieces of You: "You Were Meant for Me," "Who Will Save Your Soul" and "Foolish Games."
Even with her girlish voice, Jewel seemed to fit in with the major singing talent that surrounded her on the bill. Standing at the front of the stage with her legs crossed, she sang new songs including "What's Simple Is True" (RealAudio excerpt) in an unadorned voice that lent a direct ring to such observations as "in the end only kindness matters."
Jewel was equally direct in addressing the photographers working at the show. "It's annoying [to have] people take pictures of you when you're trying to sing," she said.
Jewel's style is descended from that of singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell, whose "Both Sides Now" Judy Collins played Monday. Collins, who also served as a sometime-master of ceremonies for the night, alternately strummed a guitar and played piano as she serenaded the crowd with songs including the lilting "Someday Soon."
Cole's three-song set, which included "I Don't Want to Wait" (RealAudio excerpt), from her 1996 breakthrough album, This Fire, was the night's most rocking. Cole pranced and whirled about the stage in a Pocahontas get-up, while her four-piece touring band provided a touch of rowdiness.
The elastic-voiced Snow brought the house down, not with her '70s hit "Poetry Man" but with an original, jazz-tinged take on the Janis Joplin hit "Piece of My Heart."
Ian, who sang her affecting 1975 hit "At Seventeen," said being a woman was a hardship in pop when she started out. "[Some people] said my career would be over when I was 22, if I [was] lucky," she said. "So I'm really glad to be 47 and standing here."
Country newcomer Mandy Barnett evoked Patsy Cline with a strong, clear voice and a tight country band that would have shined at the Grand Ole Opry.
Concert-goer Christine O'Connell, 22, of New York, said the show brought to mind something pop singer Tori Amos said about the all-female Lilith Fair.
"The idea for an all-female [night] is O.K., but seems exclusionary for men in music," O'Connell said. "It's time we moved past the [sex] thing, like Tori Amos says."