Norah Jones, LSO, St Luke's, London

Jones adds a cutting edge to her silky after-dinner style with
Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Many artists recording a concert for a radio and TV audience would stick to the tried and tested and play just slightly over the required hour needed for broadcast. Not Norah Jones.

On Saturday, the singer who swept the boards at the Grammys in 2003, winning eight awards with her "Come Away With Me" debut, showcased 12 tracks from Not Too Late, her forthcoming third album, as well as performing 10 more favourites in front of an audience of Radio 2 competition winners. Easing her way in at the grand piano with "Cold Cold Heart", the Hank Williams song she covered on her first album, Jones looked radiant in a stripy red and black dress. On "Sunrise", from Feels Like Home, her second album, she was as smoky, smooth and comforting as the morning's first coffee. So far, so easy on the eye and ear.

For the soulful new single "Thinking About You", Jones switched to a Fender Rhodes electric piano and proved just as entrancing and bewitching, delivering the lyrics with just the right amount of yearning. Mind you, she started the song again after drummer Robert Di Pietro - deputising for regular Handsome Band member Andrew Borger who broke his wrist snowboarding - came in too fast and she snapped at the photographers whose shutters irritated her, even though they were at the back of the hall.

Another new track, the Kurt Weill meets trad jazz "Sinkin' Soon", lifted the mood and propelled Jones into a flawless set. "Tell me how you've been, tell me what you've seen, tell me that you'd like to see me too," she sang on "Not Too Late", reconnecting with the mainstream audience who love this small hours, piano-bar side of the singer and have made her the dinner-party music of choice.

On Feels Like Home, Jones, explored the country music she heard growing up in Texas, an influence again tangible on "Until The End" and "Wake Me Up". But the vocalist and her partner Lee Alexander have broadened the palette further still, as demonstrated by the dreamy, drifting, lap steel sonics he added to "Not My Friend" and the upright bass loops on "Broken". Again, Jones and the Handsome Band - also featuring guitarist Adam Levy and Daru Oda on backing vocals, flute, and bass - have pulled off the rare trick of sounding organic but conjuring just the right mood, with nods to Southern soul alongside the blend of jazz and country the vocalist has made her own.

Media attention will no doubt focus on "My Dear Country", written two years ago, and its recurring motif of "Nothing is as scary as election day" and lines such as "Who knows, maybe he's not deranged". It's nice to see Jones moving into protest-singer territory and picking up the Bush-bating baton from Neil Young and Pearl Jam.

She played electric and acoustic guitar at several junctures in the set, including for "Come Away With Me" and "Lonestar", but "Don't Know Why" again proved Jones really belongs at the grand. Maybe hampered by the presence of TV cameras, the audience's response had been rather hushed. But there was no mistaking the warm enthusiastic applause at the end.

Norah Jones Live & Exclusive is on Radio 2 on Saturday 27 January at 8pm.BBC 1 Sessions - Norah Jones is on BBC 1 on Sunday 28 January at 10.45pm. Not Too Late, her new album, is out on Blue Note on 29 January.

Comments