Concert review: Norah Jones at Lyric Opera House
The past few years have seen great changes for Norah Jones.
She broke up with her longtime boyfriend and bassist. She dropped her old band and hired a new one, recording and releasing an album, "The Fall," that is more indie rock and alt-country than jazz. She even cut her hair.
For many, including the millions of jazz lovers who helped fuel Jones' phenomenal rise, change can be hard to accept, but it has had a striking effect on Jones.
When she strode onto the stage last night at the Lyric Opera House, cute and sassy in a black dress with white polka dots and a red sash, she seemed confident in her abilities and eager to stretch out her new sound.
Many of the tracks on "The Fall" are wistful and solitary, with Jones longing for a love that is just out of reach, and last night, her seasoned five-piece band let the songs breathe. Silence was as much of an instrument as guitarist Smokey Hormel's melodic solos ...
The 90-minute show veered more toward country than jazz, and opened with a few slow burners from "The Fall," including "I Wouldn't Need You" and "Light As a Feather." Jones strapped on a guitar for the first three, and even picked out a handy little solo in "Tell Your Mama."
Over the course of the evening, Jones would switch from guitar to electric piano to acoustic piano and back again, quickening the pace with the retro-leaning "Chasing Pirates," then easing it back with a bare bones take on "Don't Know Why."
The show was heavy on new material and sprinkled with Jones' hits. "Come Away With Me" was as breezy and ethereal as ever, "Sinkin' Soon," from her 2007 album "Not Too Late," had a tipsy circus lilt, and an affecting cover of the Kinks tune "Strangers" ("just 'cause," Jones explained) closed out the set.
Jones turned 31 yesterday, and her backup singer Sasha Dobson cheerfully led the crowd in a rendition of "Happy Birthday."
"I've never had an audience sing for me," Jones quipped. "Should I pay for it? Thanks. I'm blushing now."
And oh, what a voice Jones has. Her singing could soften the hardest of hearts. She could have sung us her Wikipedia entry and we would have swooned.
Last night, Jones showed the full house she was well aware of her roots, but unafraid to try a new tack. Change has been a good thing for Jones' music. Let's hope she keeps it up.
Opener: Before Jones' show, Dobson gave a 45-minute solo set, alone with a guitar on stage. Dobson is a gifted singer, and her songs took some interesting twists. I'd be interested to hear them with more instrumentation.
Jones' performance started at 9:10 p.m. and ended at 10:40 p.m.
Here is the set list:
1. I Wouldn't Need You
2. Tell Your Mama
3. Light as a Feather
4. Chasing Pirates
5. Even Though
6. It's Gonna Be
10. You've Ruined Me
11. Back to Manhattan
12. Sinkin' Soon
13. Bull Rider (Rodney Crowell cover)
14. Man of the Hour
15. Don't Know Why
16. Young Blood
18. Come Away With Me
How Many Times Have You Broken My Heart
(Photos by Colby Ware/Special to the Baltimore Sun)