Norah Jones, Clyde Auditorium, Glasgow

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The Independent Culture

Is there a devil in Ms Jones? Not that I seriously expect Norah Jones - the coy siren whose languorous songs are as calming as a still loch - to charge on stage like a thigh-quaking, crotch-thrusting Beyoncé or Britney.

Is there a devil in Ms Jones? Not that I seriously expect Norah Jones - the coy siren whose languorous 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 the Clyde Auditorium, I can't help but harbour the vague hope that she might add a little fire and turbulence to the placid waves of her chart-busting albums, Come Away With Me and Feels Like Home.

Still, it's not entirely clear why many critics have reserved a particular venom for Jones's harmless music, as if she should be burnt at the stake for making two immensely successful - if notoriously easy-listening - albums. I doubt 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 Grammys in the process.

If all this critical bile has got to her, it doesn't show as she strolls onstage with her tight-knit family circle of The Handsome Band (they're not, looking more like her elderly uncles), led by her boyfriend, the double-bassist Lee Alexander. She waves to the sell-out crowd and almost disappears behind a grand piano, enormous eyes peering out from a curtain of dark, tousled hair. Exotic looks can be a factor in success (she's Ravi Shankar's daughter), but it's the 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, "I Don't Know Why", rings out and you can almost hear the sigh of contentment from an audience ranging from 14-year-old girls to couples in their sixties. There's no question that Jones is the camomile tea of pop right now, producing soothing adult lullabies sharpened by her four-piece band's sparse jazzy arrangements. Yet, as in a glorious version of The Everly Brothers' "Sleepless Night", she can catch you unawares with sudden sad notes of genuine passion. And she is a gifted pianist, wrapping gliding chordal patterns around "Sunrise" and "Come Away With Me".

Listening to her is like sinking into a marshmallow sofa, her melodic jazz filtered through pure country and western mountain streams. Not the most ebullient performer, she kindles memories of Billie Holiday with a dash of Dusty in Memphis and Carole King. But overall, her sound is uncannily close to Ingénue period kd lang.

More than anything, Jones is a torch singer with a breathy, youthful style far removed from the classic melancholy of neon-bathed bars and motel bedrooms. But her demure delivery can be soporific, verging on vocal valium. Only on "Creepin' In", twanging with a subtle Texas swing expertly driven by Adam Levy's guitar picking and Dan Reiser's remarkable snare drumming, does the music heat up to a medium tempo.

Apart from that, every song is smoothed out. Ultimately, this is intimate piano-bar music delivered by someone with an extraordinarily alluring voice. And, for a megastar, Jones looks distinctly uncomfortable on the stage of a big hall. Then again, this is music to lie on the floor to.

Norah Jones plays the Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham, tomorrow, and the Hammersmith Apollo, London, 24-27 April

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