What a difference 16 years can make. That’s the time span between the two times I’ve seen Jewel in concert.

Her voice. Wow! The range. Incredible. The depth to her songs. The artistry of her guitar playing.

Jewel delights the audience Sept. 16 at Thunder Valley Casino in Northern California. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

It has been a long while since I have been so thrilled to be at a concert.

No band accompanied her. It was just Jewel and her guitar, just like it was in 2007 when I saw her at Lake Tahoe at what was MontBleu casino and is now Bally’s.

On Sept. 16 it was another gaming venue—Thunder Valley Casino in Lincoln. What a dynamic indoor concert facility.

What was different this time was Jewel’s sense of maturity. (She’s 49, would have been 33 when I first saw her.) A maturity in her stage presence, in her songs, in the way she carried herself, in her connection with the audience.

She is a songwriter before she is a singer. Jewel even spoke of how she has a catalog of songs she’s written but hasn’t recorded. That’s encouraging for her fans; knowing more albums are likely to be forthcoming.

On this night, she didn’t hold back on what she thought of Jann Werner’s (think Rolling Stone magazine) new book about the music scene not containing a single woman or person of color. The news had come out the previous day.

The New York Times wrote: “(Werner) said that none were ‘as articulate enough on this intellectual level,’ and that he did not view them as ‘philosophers of rock.’”

Edwin McCain, a talented songwriter in his own right, and Gina Miles, who won The Voice this year, opened for her.

Most of what Jewel shared in her more than two-hour set, that ran slightly past the curfew, were stories about herself. In Tahoe she wouldn’t have been able to talk about being a single mom, as she was still married then and didn’t have a child.

She is open about her childhood, her parents, being homeless. It has made her the empathetic woman she is today.

Jewel is a founding partner of the Inspiring Children Foundation, which focuses on “the physical, social, emotional and mental health that they need to heal, grow, and perform at the highest levels.” She is the co-founder of InnerWorld, which is a peer-to-peer mental health platform.

What made the concert so wonderful is that it truly seemed like Jewel was having fun. She wasn’t just going through the motions—another night a work, so to speak.

While there were songs she wanted to sing—some old, some new—she also took requests. She didn’t have the night all mapped out. It was relaxed and not choreographed. It was real. Almost like she was there just for us—and our 4,000 friends who were also there.

It’s hard to make a venue of that size feel intimate, but Jewel did—with her spoken words and her songs.

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