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.
Is the comedy album making a comeback?comedy
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
- 2 Christians: The world's most persecuted people
- 3 The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
- 4 Danish TV reporter is all business up top, all party down below
- 5 Ross Burden dead: MasterChef and Ready Steady Cook star dies at age 45
'Phallic symbols' found hidden in famous Pre-Raphaelite painting 'Isabella' by John Everett Millais
Game of Thrones season 4 blooper reel unveiled at Comic-Con 2014
Top Gear Burma episode breached Ofcom rules over Jeremy Clarkson's racial slur
Best movies on Netflix UK and US: 32 films that will end your endless scrolling
Coolio has sold his soul to Pornhub
The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
Were 'Poor Doors' added to mixed developments so wealthy residents don't have to go in alongside social housing tenants?
A new Russian revolution: The cracks are starting to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air