Cheryl Wheeler, |
John H. Williams Theater, Tulsa, Oklahoma
(21 November 1998)
When Cheryl Wheeler took the stage of the John H. Williams Theater at the Performing Arts Center in downtown Tulsa, the first thing she did was raise her water glass to the audience, saying "Top o' the mornin' to ya'!" She took a drink, then said "I've been driving since I was in the third grade and I finally found my way here. While driving, I like to read road signs backwards. Are you aware of what 'Tulsa' is backwards?"
After a moment's hesitation, the laughter moved throughout the crowd in waves, until finally, nearly everyone had it figured out and the whole place was rocking with laughter and applause. With the grin and wink she threw in, she already owned the audience and began her show. She then simply said, "This is a driving song," and went right into "Driving Home."
She then said "Here's a new song I shouldn't be doing now, in this political climate. But I just wrote it the other day in the car so I'm still into it." It's a hilarious song she said was written "in reaction to the Paula Jones settlement ... I mean, if we all had 850 grand for every time some guy said 'Hey, would ya?'" Her lines and delivery had the crowd bursting at the seams again and one person's laugh, especially, stood out. "Oh, a snorter," said Cheryl. "My dad's a snorter." She then recreated her mother's laugh -- but it is impossible to describe.
Next she did "Just Like God Now," which she wrote "after reading the cloning story." One line is "Tell the Pope he's through / it's just me and you." She then sang a song she "used to call 'Boulder Hotel Room.' I forget what the title is going to be on the new record." At the conclusion of this song she struggled to get the cap off a 20 ounce bottle of water, commenting: "These little vodka miniatures are gettin' harder to open, but they're gettin' bigger."
Wheeler drew more applause by announcing that her new album would be out in January. She had finished most of it about a year ago, she said, but realized it "had only divorce songs on it. I was gonna go ahead and put it out on Kevorkian Records." So then she sang "All The Live Long Day," which was "one of the first songs to show me I was comin' out of my big blue funk." She said it is "like a letter to the one that left."
After every song, Wheeler would put her glasses on, then would take them off again before starting the next song. Once she said, "I don't know if my glasses are necessary for tuning, capo or drinking." Another time she said, "Probably the next time you see me I'll be taking my teeth in and out between songs."
She introduced "Further and Further Away" as being "about the passage of time," then said, "I spend hours and hours and hours in the car and I listen to the radio all the time. I listen to about anything, except Rush. I do draw the line there. I like AM the best." She said there are several songs that mention George or Willie or Waylon and that we "need a folk one like that. This is not really a whole song, nor will it ever be. I'm certainly not gonna finish it. It's like the beginning of a song." The song she sang was about a guy in a bakery and mentioned "Woody, Seeger and Paxton."
Reacting to a twinge when she raised her glass for a drink, she said, "I guess I have lasagna elbow. I know it's not tennis elbow ... maybe it's drive-up window elbow." A couple of her jokes were too lewd to be repeated here. Beginning a tune on the guitar, she suddenly stopped, saying, "You know what? I'm sick of that song and I'm not gonna do it." What she did sing was "Mosquito," a song she wrote "to a mosquito that was taking a drink out of me."
Introducing "If It Were Up To Me," she said it is a "strange song. I was talkin' to myself when I realized I was writing this song. It's about the Jonesboro, Arkansas shooting." The lyrics list dozens of opinions about why the incident occurred, with Wheeler concluding by singing "If it was up to me, I'd take away the guns." That last line elicited shouts of agreement from members of the audience and that amazing song received the loudest and most sustained applause of the night.
Her song "Meow" is "about one of my cats," and provides a good example of how well cats can train their owners. She said the next song, "Unworthy," is "about feeling guilty -- which I always do, so I wrote a song about it. Then the song ended up with too many words in it and I felt guilty about that." While changing guitars at one point, she said, "Everything hurts, I'm tellin' ya'. I'm too old."
She introduced "Lighting Up The Mighty Mississippi" by saying it came to her as she was crossing that river while "heading home after a gig. I always get excited, anyway, every time I go across the Mississippi River. This one time the moon was coming up and it took up a whole quadrant of the sky. It made me feel sort of reverential." She concluded her set with "Potato," "the most ridiculous song ever."
Wheeler was the second act of a co-bill with Susan Werner and, for her encore, called Susan out on stage with her. She said, "We don't get to work together very much, but we love it when we do." When she said they were going to do "a song I wrote for my Dad," the crowd burst into applause in anticipation of "75 Septembers." Werner sat on a stool and harmonized, creating a very special way to bring the show to a close.
[ by Bill McCloud ]