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.