Norah Jones, Royal Festival Hall, London
Norah Jones’ look and manner seem to come from the
kooky-but-cool Zooey Deschanel school of style. In canary yellow
dress, bright red Fender and fluffy-fringed, dark hair, she purrs
with a sweet voice: “How are you up in the top? So high! I like my
audiences high!...Kinda kidding...”
But there’s nothing charmingly bumbling about this sleek performance. Jones’ backing band play everything from double bass to accordion, while she adeptly flits between electric and classic guitars, keyboard and piano.
Every note is held back and slowed down, as though each band member is waiting for the next one to play. The space between the sounds works as a tense hook at first, but as slow beat follows slow, mellow, understated beat, the lack of pace becomes frustrating. Its sole purpose seems to be to demonstrate the flexibility of the music and skill and adaptability of the musicians, rather than addressing the growing tedium of one languorous song following the next. Luckily there’s enough variety in Jones’ extensive range of jazz, folk, soul and country sounds to keep the set interesting.
When she performs “Don’t Know Why”, the breakout hit, that won her a Grammy in 2003, she elects to wring out the full essence of the lyrics with another slow-paced rendition, accompanied only by her piano. For this song, it works. We are left to focus on the myriad meanings of the words, “don’t know why I didn’t come”. And even devout fans might have unearthed new allusions from her lilting piano chords and smoky, pleading voice.
Tracks from Jones’ new album, Little Broken Hearts see her riffing on familiar territory. Breaking up is a central theme, but her well-worn country soul sound is given a modern lift with synthy electric distortions. The skillfully discordant title track stands out as an experimental departure from Jones’ signature sound, her voice sounds more animal than human and there’s an edgy hypnotism about the heavy, slow drumming.
A spattering of covers includes a soft, clean, old school jazz version of Hank Williams’ “Cold Cold Heart”. “Black” from Danger Mouse’s Rome album (on which Jones sings guest vocals) also adds spice, with unsettling, eerie harmonised male vocals backing Jones’ dark whispered lyrics, which somehow retain a slight country-singer vibe, even when she’s singing about city streets and disease.
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Cyclist who knocked down three-year-old girl says his life has been 'destroyed'
- 2 A politically correct lefty goes to see Top Gear live – you'll probably believe what happened next
- 3 Young Preston fan has play-off hero Jermaine Beckford's shirt stolen from him at Wembley - which then appears for sale on Gumtree
- 4 Isis burns woman alive for refusing to engage in 'extreme' sex act, UN says
- 5 Puerto Rico, island of lost dreams: People are leaving the debt-hit territory in droves as near neighbour Cuba's star rises
Stolen Instagram photo sells for $90,000
Art Garfunkel calls Paul Simon a 'monster' with a Napoleon complex
Eurovision 2015 winner: Sweden beats Russia and Italy to take the title from Conchita Wurst
Dheepan, film review: Palme d'Or prize goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Game of Thrones, The Gift, Season 5, Episode 7: Why two of the show’s most iconic characters just met
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
EU referendum: David Cameron to deny EU migrants and under-18s the chance to vote
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people