Norah Jones, Apollo, Manchester<br/>Hot Chip, Dublin Castle, London

Pipe? Check. Slippers? Yup
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The Independent Culture

'Will you take my dad with you?" This is how two of my friends, quite independently, reacted when I told them I was going to see Norah Jones. It makes sense. Norah Jones is, let's be frank about this, top quality eye candy. But she's also a "proper" musician with a respectable pedigree (her estranged father is hippy sitar icon Ravi Shankar), which means that, while to you and I she might basically be Myleene Klass without the non-credible past, it's acceptable for gentlemen of a certain age to drool over her.

'Will you take my dad with you?" This is how two of my friends, quite independently, reacted when I told them I was going to see Norah Jones. It makes sense. Norah Jones is, let's be frank about this, top quality eye candy. But she's also a "proper" musician with a respectable pedigree (her estranged father is hippy sitar icon Ravi Shankar), which means that, while to you and I she might basically be Myleene Klass without the non-credible past, it's acceptable for gentlemen of a certain age to drool over her.

The doe-eyed, tousle-haired Jones (who has, for the first time, taken to wearing dresses, having previously gone for jeans to deflect attention from her figure) can't help being pretty, of course. And thank the gods that pop has yet to follow the example of film (in which, for example, Charlize Theron has to hideously disfigure herself in order to win accolades). That isn't the problem. The fact that she has a sackful of talent but only a pocketful of imagination (the former being all but useless without the latter), however, might be. Jones's breathy, languid voice is soothing enough, and The Handsome Band (whose double bassist, Lee Alexander, is Norah's boyfriend) make a well-crafted, grown-up blend of light jazz and gentle country, but on her first UK tour since she went superstellar, there's little in her live performance to stir the soul.

Naturally, multitudes of satisfied customers disagree. Norah's vital statistics are as follows: 18 million copies sold of Come Away With Me, her debut album. Two million copies (and rising) of its successor, Feels Like Home. No fewer than eight Grammy awards, and she's only just turned 25. She's a record executive's wet dream.

Sadly, the onstage reality is equally somnolent. As Norah sits behind her grand piano, sliding smoothly through almost two hours of Horlicks-like easy listening (the bluegrass "Creepin' In" is a rare uptempo interlude), you find yourself wondering whether the venue oughtn't provide complimentary matchsticks for eyelids. As well as her own material, her set is peppered by tastefully-chosen cover versions (Tom Waits, Everly Brothers, Gram Parsons, Hank Williams, Townes Van Zandt and, somewhat incongruously, AC/DC) but, tastefully-chosen as they are, it's not far enough removed from Vonda Shepard territory. The numerous large lampshades hanging over the stage are presumably intended to engender a feeling of being at home. Which is where, to be honest, the dads might as well have stayed: pipe, slippers and all.

Led by an angry, bespectacled little fellow banging a cowbell, Hot Chip - five men of differing shapes and sizes stood behind a motley assortment of keyboards - look like Kraftwerk on a student-loan budget. Their show at the Dublin Castle is something of a buzz event. Specialising in experimental (but always danceable) synth-pop with sometimes almost mediaeval plainsong harmonies, Hot Chip exhibit a laboratory-like seriousness in everything they do. "Down With Prince", the ear-catching debut single, is not so much an attack on the Minneapolitan funk genius, more on the Johnny-come-latelies who are currently claiming to have "always loved" the great man, while ripping off his licks. The masterstroke, of course, is that "DWP" is, itself, a superb Prince pastiche, up there with anything Har Mar Superstar (possibly one of its targets) has ever done. They follow it with another audacious pastiche, this time based on Justin Timberlake's "Cry Me A River".

A little bird tells me that there's a degree of Hoxtonite irony at play here, and that Hot Chip actually spend their spare time listening to such hyphenated genres as lo-fi, alt-country and post-rock. But when the end result sounds this good, it's debatable whether such details matter. And, in any case, little birds are not always to be trusted.

Norah Jones: Hammersmith Apollo, London W6 (0870 606 3400), tonight, Mon & Tue. Hot Chip: Islington Academy, London N1 (0870 166 3663), tonight

s.price@independent.co.uk

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