Half the tunes in Norah Jones’ 20-song set at the Greek Theater appear on her latest Blue Note disc “Not Too Late” and there’s not one note or lyric that would jar listeners or make them think that sweet Norah Jones has gone astray. A unique talent whose interpretation is perhaps sharper than her songwriting, her show is sleepy without sleep-inducing, choreographed around gentleness and thoughts of romantic bliss. The evening’s seamlessness is deceiving: It requires considerable artistry to work in this hushed realm and keep tempos straight and effect moods that shift from song to song even when the tunesseem nearly identical.
Jones received an unjust reputation as a snooze of a live act after America fell in love with her debut album “Come Away With Me” and she was playing large theaters as if she were in a stageless coffeehouse on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. She continues to increase the amount of guitar she plays, both electric and acoustic, and just her movement from instrument to instrument elevates the evening from the sedentary sensation her early shows gave off.
As much as her uniquely warm purring voice is a key attraction, instrumentation is crucial to making Jones’ show successful. In covering Willie Nelson’s “Hands on the Wheel” she used the odd combination of bowed bass, banjo, flute and vibes to give the tune a distinguished feel; opener “Come Away With Me,” with just her on a red Fender guitar, was stark and tender.
In concert, Jones pushed her material toward the bluesy fringe of country music, allowing her Texas twang to punctuate a fair number of lyrics. The essence of Duke Ellington’s “Caravan” permeated the intro of “I’ve Got to See You Again” and guitarist Adam Levy supplied a creepy Angelo Badalamenti-esque frame to “Be My Somebody”; otherwise, Jones played the music with an alluring straight-forwardness that made 90 minutes zoom by rather quickly.
M. Ward delivered a fun opening set that included nods to John Fahey and Ella Fitzgerald, and he joined Jones for a raw rendition of John Fogerty’s “Green River.”