Jenny Wood plays an emotional homecoming to a full house

Jenny Wood performs live at Botanica on Wednesday, Sept. 18. Wood was recently in a vehicle collision which left her hospitalized for a period of time.

Becca Yenser

Jenny Wood performs live at Botanica on Wednesday, Sept. 18. Wood was recently in a vehicle collision which left her hospitalized for a period of time.

Jenny Wood is back. 

On Wednesday evening, the sold-out crowd at Botanica gave Wichita musician Jenny Wood a standing ovation as she entered the cathedral-esque room. Wood stepped onto the stage dressed in a pale blue prom dress and sneakers — lit by sunlight, guitar shining.

The crowd held its collective breath.

“I am so honored to be here with you,” Wood said, visibly emotional, “I can feel your love.” Her fans answered with loud applause. 

Wood, a long-standing darling in the Wichita community — equally known for her rock songs as well as her work with children — made her first public appearance since she suffered a tragic accident in May of this year. While Wood suffered critical injuries, her niece and mother were killed in the crash.

Since the accident, Wichitans have shown Wood lots of love, from organizing prayer vigils to putting on benefit shows. 

For anyone wondering if Wood would “still have it,” after the accident, the answer is a resounding yes. 

Alternating between pretty, delicate songs and rock anthems, the musician and her band held the audience captive with stirring renditions and original songs. Wood’s voice is that of a siren — it floated up to the rafters, dodged, and rasped.

For their first tune, she and her three-piece band eased into power ballad, “Don’t Let Them Get in Your Head.” Halfway through the song, Wood abruptly stopped playing, “Can I get some children up here on the stage?” Several kids from the audience joined Wood for a heart-pulling rendition of what has become a local anti-bullying anthem.

“Good Human,” played late in the set, showcased the band’s talent in the avante garde, allowing space in the second half of the song for an energetic improvisational frenzy. As the show progressed, Wood became visibly more and more comfortable, towards the end of the set jumping and grinning on stage. 

Often, Wood broke the emotional atmosphere with her trademark humor.

“One thing that’s slowly coming to me…is my ability to rock out. So I’m gonna do that now,” Wood said. And the band launched into the rock anthem, “Your Love Is Not Enough.”

Between songs, Wood offered bits of narrative regarding her recovery process since the accident. She told stories of how she tried to run away from the hospital, telling the doctors “You got the wrong person.” 

References to life and death surfaced often during the show. Wood dedicated her moving second song, “How Great Thou Art,” as a tribute to her late mother. The artist also spoke freely of her gratitude towards family, doctors, and friends. At one point she picked up a porcelain angel at her feet. “I keep this angel with me at all times,” she said. 

“I was given a 5 percent chance to live,” she told the rapt crowd, “energy, thought, and prayer do work. I’m living proof of that.”

The Wichita community seemed lifted up by Wood’s story — by her resiliency and courage. 

One young fan in particular voiced a similar sentiment: “I had a connection to the songs,” said 14-year-old  Brooklynn, who heard of the artist during an anti-bully campaign at school, “I liked how she shared her voice with people. She’s connecting to people’s hearts, and I love that.”

Wood’s next performance is at the Bartlett Arboretum on September 29.