Norah Jones is stunning in Vancouver – plays electric guitar
Norah Jones stepped onto the stage, quietly, and stood behind a microphone dressed casually in jeans and a black and white striped top. She was singing back up for opening act M. Ward. The restless crowd didn't recognize her at first. They were expecting to sit through an unknown opening act. She disappeared after singing 3 duets with Ward. Give Jones credit for drawing attention to the opening act. This is Jones' style: understated, professional, warm and highlighting others.
When Jones finally came back as the main act, she stepped onto stage wearing a bright red dress, and a bright red electric guitar. She strummed chords and sang the opening lines to “Come Away With Me – her big 2002 hit. What? Norah not at the piano? She looked like a lost party girl with her fluffy knee length dress and fishnet stockings. Jones definitely challenged the audience with new renditions of her old songs. Afterall, this was a jazz festival concert she was playing at. She shared with the audience that her first performance in Vancouver was a Jazz Festival show. She was a jazz nerd, and she was only 19 years old. She tasted her first martini, and didn't like it. The crowd clapped endearingly.
She moved from piano to electric piano to acoustic guitar, playing songs from her new album, “Not Too Late,” as well as her big selling “Come Away With Me” and it's follow up “Feels Like Home.” The Handsome Band accompanied her, and I was impressed by its musicianship. Everybody played at least too instruments. Guitarist Adam Levy played some banjo, drummer Andrew Borger played marimba, Lee Alexander played electric bass, double bass (with a bow!) and guitar, Daru Oda played flute, electric bass, percussion, hurdy gurdy and even whistled on an acoustic guitar duet with Norah. It's an amazingly musically diverse band playing jazz, pop, blues, dixie, country and western swing. And of course the racial diversity is evident with Jones' mixed heritage by father Ravi Shankar, and Oda's Japanese-American heritage.
It was a wonderful concert in an intimate setting. Jones played solo piano for the Hoagy Carmichael classic “The Nearness of You,” as well as her new political protest song “Election Day.” I've been a fan of Norah Jones since 2002, when “Come Away With Me” came out. I love the acoustic emphasis and the soft vocal inflections that sound as if she is singing only to you – from the other side of a table. The first date I had with my girlfriend, she put on Norah Jones and Diana Krall on the stereo, while I cooked dinner for her. Going to see our first Norah Jones concert was a perfect capping for my girlfriend's birthday week.