After bursting onto the scene with a 10 million-selling debut, "Come Away With Me," Jones quickly changed course, spending time surreptitiously working in tiny Gotham clubs playing unbilled with bands specializing in country, punk and a good many genres in between.

Plenty of artists pay lip service to the notion of letting the music rather than the marketing do the talking, but few multi-platinum selling performers have walked the walk as steadfastly as Norah Jones. After bursting onto the scene with a 10 million-selling debut, “Come Away With Me,” Jones quickly changed course, spending time surreptitiously working in tiny Gotham clubs playing unbilled with bands specializing in country, punk and a good many genres in between.

She’s incorporated a fair number of those influences into her work since, and with her latest Blue Note release, “The Fall,” she’s found a balance between success and satisfaction — the former evident in her ability to sell out this venue twice over and the latter in a rediscovered sense of relaxed cheerfulness onstage.

That breeziness clearly stems in part from Jones being untethered from her piano — an instrument she ditched all but completely on “The Fall,” and for a good portion of this 90-minute program. Jones opened the perf on guitar, delivering a solid six-pack of tunes from that album, all characterized by a breezy energy that should come across even more effectively when she hooks up with the Lilith Fair tour this summer; they seem ideally suited for outdoor airing.

Rather than fall back on the breathy torchiness of songs like “Don’t Know Why” — presented here in somewhat thornier form than usual — Jones took a few leaps into the sonic breach, adding some gristle to her take on Wilco’s “Jesus, Etc.” and tapping into a vein of bracing pain on “Cold, Cold Heart” (a longtime live staple that formerly came across as a mere country-music case study).

Jones also responded well to the gentle challenges of a new touring band, particularly guitarist Smokey Hormel, who sparred affably with her on “Back to Manhattan” and the subtly shaded “Light as a Feather.” The blend of accessibility and individuality that emerged proved that Jones has not only learned how to have her cake and eat it, too, but to serve it up in a most delightful way.

Jones plays the Orpheum in Los Angeles on April 23.

Norah Jones

Theater at Madison Square Garden;5,600 seats; $128 top

Production

Presented by Live Nation.

Cast

Band: Norah Jones, Smokey Hormel, Joey Waronker, Sasha Dobson, Gus Seyffert. Opened March 27, 2010. Closed and reviewed March 28, 2010.
Want Entertainment News First? Sign up for Variety Alerts and Newsletters!
Post A Comment 0