Monday, June 25, 2007

norah jones

I just came home from the Norah Jones concert at the Mountain Winery in Saratoga. I had high expectations: Norah’s laid back, sultry voice is a perfect match for a warm summer evening and the Handsome Band is a perfect match for their lead singer. But, I was blown away by how good this concert really was.

M Ward opened receiving an assist from a jeans-clad Norah for the first four songs. As they would later prove on Creepin’ In during Norah’s set (for which she changed to a very cute dress), their very different vocal styles are wonderful together. M Ward is a great young talent, and highlights from the opener included re-interpretations of Roy Orbison’s Blue Bayou, Willie Nelson’s Permanently Lonely and David Bowie’s Let’s Dance. M Ward’s own Eyes on the Prize fit right in.

Norah has been generous with her celebrity, lending vocal support to recordings by friends like Jessie Harris, Jim Campilongo, Jools Holland and my favorite, Richard Julian. She is also always game for side projects like: guitarist Adam Levy’s solo album; The Little Willies with Jim, Richard, bassist Lee Alexander and drummer Dan Rieser; and, El Madmo with the delightful Daru Oda. Apparently Norah can’t whistle but she loves to sing, and she showed it all night long.

Inspired by a wonderful evening of music and empowered by clips of questionable legality on YouTube, I thought I would recreate some of the magic here for you. Buy her albums, support her friends and make sure you see her next time she returns to the Mountain Winery.

Norah opened with the title track from her first album, Come Away With Me. Reworked for the 2007 tour, it featured her guitar and her smooth, effortless voice.

She followed this with Those Sweet Words, a favorite from her second album Feels Like Home.

Then, she played cuts from the newest album: Not Too Late. Released in January, I had lukewarm impressions on first listen, but I have come to appreciate its artistry more and more.

In concert, the songs sounded even better than the well-engineered album. The sound was pristine, and I enjoyed the very slow rendition of Rosie’s Lullaby. Also noteworthy: the spunky Little Room, played as a duet with the mutli-instrumental Daru. Throughout the evening Daru provided well-blended backup vocals and played base, piano, flute, harmonium and some square metal things.

Norah would play almost every song on Not Too Late. A nice example is Until the End.

However, the setlist was well-balanced. I thought that Hank Williams’ Cold, Cold Heart (from Come Away With Me) was a standout, showcasing that bewitching voice and Lee on upright.

Another amazing moment came near the end of the show when she covered Townes Van Zandt’s For the Sake of the Song (Norah, please record this!) followed shortly by Willie Nelson’s Hands on the Wheel. Willie would have been proud.

These were hard to top but the three song encore did just that. Starting with a nice rendition of Don’t Know Why (from Come Away With Me).

shifting to a soulful What Am I to You (from Feels Like Home) and ending with Tom Waits’ Long Way Home (from Not Too Late)

Bonus links: more Norah performances you might enjoy:
That’s The Way The World Goes Round (with Richard Julian)
One Flight Down (from Come Away With Me)
Sunrise (from Feels Like Home)
Humble Me (from Feels Like Home)
Wurlitzer Prize (with Willie Nelson)
Drown in My Own Tears (a tribute to Ray Charles)
Easy as the Rain (as The Little Willies)

More bonus links: concert DVDs
Live in 2004 and Live in New Orleans