Most concerts in Central Park are an event, and Sheryl Crow designed hers to be an event with a capital "E," performing duets with Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Stevie Nicks, Chrissie Hynde, Sarah McLachlan, and the Dixie Chicks. Such a combination of superstar power and prestigious venue should have generated sparks, and perhaps it did in person, but as the record Sheryl Crow and Friends: Live in Central Park, it falls surprisingly flat. The set list is fine, boasting all the hits, good selections from The Globe Sessions, and several crowd-pleasing covers. Crow's band is professional, and they acquit themselves well throughout the record, even if they do so without much style. Thus, everything seems to be in place for a solid live album -- everything except Crow's performance. Perhaps she had faulty monitors, but for some reason, her vocal performance is all over the place, sometimes changing pitch and phrasing within the same line. She's not the only person to suffer this problem, as Eric Clapton mangles "White Room" and everybody sounds out of place on the sing-along "Tombstone Blues." Of course, this could have been fixed in the studio, and to her credit, Crow chose to preserve the integrity of the performance. Usually, such unvarnished performances are raw and exciting, because they capture the kinetic energy of a concert. But Crow's Central Park show was designed as spectacle, big-budget entertainment, the polar opposite of a sweaty club show. Consequently, such flaws as oversinging and missed notes don't sound like a badge of honor, as they would on a club show -- they sound glaringly out of place. Because of this, Live in Central Park doesn't work as a record, even though it does seem like being in the audience would have been fun.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine