Norah Jones at the Chicago Theatre | Photos and review
Norah Jones is somewhat of a paradox in contemporary music. With the ability to move millions with her inarguable talents; she has a rather stoic, detached personality that rarely makes itself seen on her records. Her voice has the bluesy components of a soul singer’s dream; her lyrics and tacit approach reflect an unawareness of her potential.
Yet there are few singers with such a loyal following as the demure, tasteful Norah, and they paired up in droves to see the Lite FM queen at the Chicago Theatre Tuesday night. Jones is on the last leg of an extended five-month tour, and her opening numbers, “Cold Cold Heart“ and “What Am I to You?“, performed sleepily at the piano, revealed an apparent exhaustion.
Perhaps a warm up was all that was in order. Once Jones strapped on her cherry red electric guitar and burst into “Little Broken Hearts”, the title track to her new album, a much-needed rush of energy swept into the room. The follow-up, “22”, was woeful and spare and sounded just as sultry as it did in-studio. The fact that Jones and her band (who made up for Jones’ restraint with their enthusiasm, particularly guitarist Jason Abraham Jones) could replicate the masterfully produced “Little Broken Hearts” tracks so well live was a testament to their savvy chemistry. The album, which was, unexpectedly, produced by Danger Mouse, gives Jones’ sound a well-timed sonic lift, and it was reassuring to learn it wasn’t all studio hijinks.
Not that Jones needed reassurance. Has there ever been a singer with more loyal, adoring fans? In fact, the audience seemed to know the time for her talents better than she did. When Jones perched again at her piano for a few solo songs, a crowd member called out a request for “Man of the Hour.” Jones seemed surprised at the request, but after an affirmative cheer, she obliged, and the cute little ditty Jones penned about her dog ended up being the highlight of the evening. “It’s him or me / that’s what he said / but I can’t choose between a vegan and a pothead” she trilled, inducing laughs as she tinkled at the keys. Surely whatever song Jones had planned in that one’s place could not have been so charming. The the somber, extended treatment she gave to the follow up, “Don’t Know Why”, suggested that she could do with more of an audience dictation of her set list.
Jones' fans may love her, but she struggled to return the affection. She was reserved and detached throughout the night, attempting little small talk or movement. At least she showed a musical dexterity that kept the show interesting. Her somewhat-removed personality actually lent a thrilling chill to “Miriam”, her dark new track about getting vengeful after a romantic betrayal. Jones was at least willing to mix it up, and belted out the Grateful Dead’s “It Must Have Been the Roses” with effusive country flair. The encore, in which she clustered around the mic between guitars, an accordion and a snare drum, rewarded a thrilled audience with the long-awaited “Come Away with Me” and “Sunrise.”
That’s the thing about Norah Jones: she’s got the talents to charm just about anyone. Her fans just may know better than her how she should use them.