Norah Jones’ Performance at the Vets

norahOkee dokee folks … I had the privilege of seeing Norah Jones at Veterans Memorial Auditorium last Thursday night. The concert was sold out and I managed to get last minute tix to the show. Providence was bustling and parking was tight. We parked at the mall garage, but it was a bit difficult to orient ourselves towards the auditorium. After a bit of an odyssey, we found our way to Vets and then to our seats just in the nick of time for start of the show!

The lights dimmed and a lone, acoustic guitarist, Josh Lattanzi, took a seat center stage. He said, “This is a beautiful theater you guys have here!” and began to play. After the song, he mentioned that there was a CD for sale in the lobby and buying it could, “help put my 1-year-old through college and if it does really well he won’t even have to go to college!” A percussionist/vocalist joined him for the third song, a guitarist on the fourth, and by the fifth song a pianist had completed the lineup of the band The Candles. Their music had a ’70s, country-tinged rock sound that in some cases had an Allman Brothers and Grateful Dead edge to it. Best songs of their set were “Lost My Driving Wheel” and “Blue Skies and Sun.” They closed out their eight-song set with warm applause from the audience.

At 9pm, Norah Jones strolled out on stage wearing a short black dress and a long shawl-like vest. She sat down at her piano and simply said, “Hey, how are you?” She went right into the “Everybody Knows” by the late Leonard Cohen. Her backing band were the members of the opening act, The Candles. The radiating lines backdrop emulated the cover of her latest CD, Day Breaks. “Everybody Knows” was followed by “I’ve Got To See You Again” and “Out On The Road.” The slow, maniacal sounding, “Sinkin’ Soon” had Josh Lattanzi switching to upright bass. For the next number, “Tragedy,” I heard her quietly count off, “1-2-3” and this was the first of five songs that she would play from the new CD during the evening’s performance. “It’s Gonna Be” was propelled by a driving drum beat and a slightly distorted electric piano sound. Jones picked up an acoustic guitar and played the country flavored “Wake Me Up” with her guitarist getting a lap steel guitar sound from his electric. She switched to her red Fender Mustang electric and introduced the next song, “Don’t Know What It Means,” saying, “I put out a record with a band I have … Puss N’ Boots. This is a song from it.” She stayed with the electric guitar and started the first verse of the song “Lone Star” solo before the band joined her. “Stuck,” “Chasing Pirates,” the jazzy “Peace”from the new CD, and a solo number on the piano, “Little Broken Hearts,” followed. She dedicated the next song to “someone who’s here … in the dressing room.” This went out to Ralph, her dog, and it was “Man Of The Hour.” She proclaimed, “I forgot the words” as she was singing it and shook her head. After the song, a member of the audience dropped a bouquet of flowers on the stage and Norah exclaimed, “Awe, Thank You!” The month appropriate “December” came next with acoustic guitar accompanying Jones’ vocal and piano. She played her breakthrough hit, “Don’t Know Why” next. This version had a slightly faster tempo and a bit of a rushed, halfhearted feel to it. “We’re going to play a Neil Young song” introduced her version of “Don’t Be Denied.” The lyrics were slightly different from the original and were put in the third person instead of Young’s first person perspective. “Flip Side” and “Carry On” from her new CD completed the set. She said “Thank You for coming” and exited the stage.

After exuberant applause, the band came back out with acoustic instruments and stood around a single microphone, a la Grand Ole Opry, to perform their encore of “Sunrise,” “Creepin’ In” and the title track from her first CD, “Come Away With Me.” This was an interesting approach to these songs, and I am sure that they sounded great but the single microphone feat is a learned skill and without proper proximity the sound levels are not good. Jones’ voice didn’t carry well during these songs. At the finish of her encore trifecta she gave a little wave, blew the audience a kiss and left (probably to be greeted by Ralph’s wagging tail).

Jones’ set went from folk to jazz to rock and back again. I had previously only seen Norah Jones when she played with her band Puss N’ Boots, which I feel is not a particularly strong trio. The Veteran’s show presented Jones in her glory. She effortlessly shifted genres and though not a great guitarist (in comparison to her piano skills), carried herself much better than the last time I saw her. Jones’ soft, smoky voice and twirling, tickling of the ivories are her strengths. She proved her potency with those talents. The Candles were a much better back-up band for Jones’ than they were an opener. Their set was enjoyable, but not hugely memorable. Norah Jones put forth an extremely enjoyable hour and 40 minute/22-song performance and the overall sound at Veterans was great.

That’s it for now. Thanks for reading.

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