Reviewed by Laura Kate
I feel that sometimes we listen to a particular song, band or genre of music because we are in the mood—or want to set the mood—for it. You know the old stereotypes–some smooth Al Green, ethereal Mazzy Star, or (if you are my like my mother), crooning Barry Manilow for when you are planning a romantic night; some Rage Against the Machine or N.W.A. for when you are feeling feisty; or some Chipmunks Christmas album or the Dreidel song for the holidays.
But then there are times when you randomly select something to listen to—maybe your iPod is on shuffle or you just reach for the nearest cd—that puts you in a particular mood. This happened to me when I went to the Norah Jones concert on June 28 at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m pretty familiar with Jones’ music and I felt I knew what to expect, but when I came across the tickets for this show, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into…which is not necessarily a bad thing.
Jones rose to stardom after her 2002 debut album, Come Away with Me earned five Grammy awards. She just released her fifth studio album, Little Broken Hearts, in April and it has been quite successful so far. Her style is smooth and mellow, combining elements of pop, jazz, soul and blues to create a sound all her own. She is not shy about telling people that her musical idol was Billie Holliday, and you can hear Holliday’s subtle influence while listening to Jones’ original songs. I’m simply in love with her music.
The opening act was Sasha Dobson, and it is no wonder that she perfectly set the tone for the evening. She performed several solo jazzy acoustic songs before taking her place in Jones’ band. Dobson’s performance as the opening act sounded easy and eloquent and made me want to listen to more that this musician has to offer.
Jones started her performance with several tracks from Little Broken Hearts, opening with “Take It Back,” which has a really cool fuzz bass undertone. The set design was beautiful, with blue, purple and pink hues highlighting large origami peace cranes that were suspended from the ceiling. Other songs in the first half included “Say Goodbye” and “Chasing Pirates.”
I enjoyed the first part thoroughly, but then she deftly changed the pace by sliding into “Travelin’ On” and “She’s 22.” These songs are so full of longing and sadness, and (for me, at least) it induces a kind of empathy for Jones and the place she must have been in when she wrote it. My mood shifted from relaxed and content to sad and moody just from listening to a piece of music I related to. She then took me to a sense of determination with “Little Broken Hearts,” which is driving and edgy with lyrics that cut; Jones performed it with confident abandon.
The second half of the concert included covers of Elvis Presley, Danger Mouse, and Hank Williams, which made for very interesting interpretations of familiar songs. Jones gave each of these songs her own touch, which made them fit perfectly with her own compositions. The standout sons from the second half would be “What am I to You?” I looked around and noticed a young couple standing at the top of the steps under the pavilion who were dancing in the darkness. He had his arm around her waist, drawing her close to him, and she was looking into his eyes and it was just a perfectly sweet scene to a beautiful love song. This once again proves my point. I doubt that they came to the concert planning to dance, but this gorgeous music put them in the mood to share a tender moment with each other. My mood shifted once again as well and I left the concert with a fuzzy warm feeling from having seen a wonderful show, but the feeling was just barely tinged with sadness from my own reflections on Jones’ very personal lyrics.
Ok, so if you read my introduction on the Music page, you know that I will go to any lengths to weave in a Beatles reference. I don’t have to go too far on this one. You score extra points if you know who Norah Jones’ father is.
Set list (Norah Jones, June 28, Mann Center for the Performing Arts)
- Take It Back
- Say Goodbye
- After the Fall
- Travelin’ On
- Chasing Pirates
- She’s 22
- All a Dream
- It’s Gonna Be
- Little Broken Hearts
- Love Me
- What Am I To You?
- Don’t Know Why
- Cold Cold Heart