Norah Jones, Clyde Auditorium, Glasgow

Jones plays with genuine passion, but it verges on vocal valium
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The Independent Culture

Is there a devil in Miss Jones? Not that I expect Norah Jones - the coy siren whose languid songs are as calming as a still loch - to charge on stage like a thigh-quaking, crotch-thrusting Beyoncé or Britney. But as we wait for the entrance of the queen of the soft furnishings department of pop in the steel cavern of Glasgow's Clyde Auditorium I can't help harbour the vague hope that she might add a little fire and turbulence to the placid wafting waves of her two chart-busting albums, Come Away With Me and Feels Like Home.

Is there a devil in Miss Jones? Not that I expect Norah Jones - the coy siren whose languid songs are as calming as a still loch - to charge on stage like a thigh-quaking, crotch-thrusting Beyoncé or Britney. But as we wait for the entrance of the queen of the soft furnishings department of pop in the steel cavern of Glasgow's Clyde Auditorium I can't help harbour the vague hope that she might add a little fire and turbulence to the placid wafting waves of her two chart-busting albums, Come Away With Me and Feels Like Home.

It is still not entirely clear why, but many critics seem to have reserved a particularly spleenful stream of venom for the harmless music of Jones as if she should be burned at the stake for making two immensely successful, if notoriously easy-listening, albums. It's doubtful if this will trouble the 24-year-old, for this is her first UK tour as a proven chart superstar, having shifted more than 20 million albums and collected eight Grammies in the process.

But if all this critical bile has got to her, it doesn't show as she strolls on stage with her tight-knit family circle of The Handsome Band (they're not, looking more like her uncles), led by her boyfriend and double-basist, Lee Alexander. She waves to the sell-out crowd and almost disappears behind her grand piano, enormous glowing eyes peering out from a curtain of dark, tousled hair.

Exotic looks - she's the daughter of the long-estranged father, Ravi Shankar - can be a factor in massive success but it's Jones's rich, sensuous voice that counts, making often unremarkable songs, such as the opening "Turn Me On" echo with the earthy rustle of early jazz and blues.

Her breakthrough track, "Don't Know Why", rings out and you can almost hear the crowd's communal sigh of contentment. There is no question that Jones is the camomile tea of popular music right now, producing soothing adult lullabies surrounded by the band's sparse, jazzy arrangements. Yet, as in a glorious version of The Everley Brothers' "Sleepless Nights", she can catch you unawares with a sudden sad note of cracked genuine passion. And she is a gifted pianist, rapping gliding patterns around "Sunrise" and "Come Away With Me".

Listening to her is like sinking into a sofa made of marshmallow, her melodic jazz filtered through country-and-western mountain streams, an acoustic salve for our over-stressed, terrorised times. Hardly the most ebullient performer, she kindles memories of Billie Holiday with a dash of Dusty in Memphis and Carole King, but overall Jones's sound and style is uncannily close to Ingenue period K D Lang.

More than anything else Jones is a torch singer but her demure delivery can be soporific and an hour and a half of this verges on vocal valium. Only on "Creeping In", toying with a subtle Texas swing, do things heat up. But in the main, every song is smoothed out with no sweat broken and ultimately this is intimate piano-bar music delivered by someone with an extraordinary alluring voice. But Jones still looks uncomfortable in the concert hall. Music not to cheer for but to lie down to.



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