Norah Jones Branches Out with ‘The Fall’
|On The Fall, Jones worked with a new set of collaborators, including noted producer Jacquire King (Kings of Leon, Tom Waits, and Modest Mouse). King helped Jones put together a new group of musicians to perform on the album, including drummers Joey Waronker (Beck, R.E.M.) and James Gadson (Bill Withers), keyboardist James Poyser (Erykah Badu, Al Green), and guitarists Marc Ribot (Tom Waits, Elvis Costello) and Smokey Hormel (Johnny Cash, Joe Strummer).|
Written by Chrissy Mauck
Midway thru Sunday night’s concert at Phoenix’s Dodge Theater, multiple Grammy-award winning artist Norah Jones remarked that she’s “been at this now for eight years,” a fact that “sometimes just makes me feel old.”
On the contrary, arriving onstage at Phoenix’s Dodge Theater Sunday night in a spunky turquoise dress with a racer-back black vest and 4-inch canary yellow pumps, Jones much more fit the bill of an early 20-something feisty rocker than the mature, sultry mistress of jazz associated with 2002’s diamond-selling Come Away With Me.
Jones’ wardrobe stylistically complemented the direction of 2009’s The Fall, which branches out from her signature moody-blues, jazz-infused tunes and ventures toward electric pop-rock.
Alternating behind a Wurlitzer electric piano and her Fender Mustang guitar, Jones showcased her depth as an artist during an opening 5-song run of new material including groovy tracks “Chasing Pirates,“ “Young Blood and “Even Though.”
Jones returned to the cherry-red Fender several times throughout the 19-song set, including on 2003’s Feels Like Home track “Broken,” a lively cover of Johnny Cash’s “Cry, Cry, Cry,” the smoky “Lonestar” and encore closer “Come Away With Me.”
The “Cry, Cry, Cry” cover was a nod to two members of her brand new 5-piece backup band. Guitarist Smokey Hormel is best known for his session work with Cash, while backup singer, multi-instrumentalist and show opener Sasha Dobson frequently performs the cover with Jones in their all-girl country band Puss N’ Boots.
Anticipation built among the “date-night” audience as the lights dimmed and Jones shifted over to her trusty piano, keys lit by an interesting red lampshade sitting atop a turban-wearing figurine. The vintage lamp appeared to be a private joke as Jones smiled knowingly as she shifted the light to her liking.
It is here behind the ivories where the songstress remains at her best, working the keys with delicacy and precision while oozing through the familiar “Sunrise” and bluesy-newcomer “Back to Manhattan” in a supple voice that could melt butter.
Vocals from Jones’ backup singers also proved an unexpected delight. Hormel and Dobson pitched in with quiet strength on the chorus of the Kinks’ “Strangers,” while Dobson and bassist Gus Seyffert delivered rich harmonies on one of the evening’s highlights in a new twist of mega-hit “Don’t Know Why.”
But her trusty sidekicks cleared the stage as the pixie-like Jones perched on her piano seat for “Man of the Hour,” a humorous blues ode to a best friend that will “never make me cry.”
“You never lie, and you don’t cheat, and you don’t have any baggage tied to your four feet,” she playfully crooned.
It’s no wonder why The Fall—recorded following her breakup with longtime boyfriend and bassist Lee Alexander—features a St. Bernard, an animal originally bred for rescue, on its cover.
And by curtain time, Jones showcased that she’s a star still on the Rise.
Spotted in the crowd: E Street Band guitarist Nils Lofgren
Complete Set List:
“Light as a Feather”
“It’s Gonna Be”
“Back to Manhattan”
“Man of the Hour”
“Don’t Know Why”
“Cry, Cry, Cry”
“Come Away with Me”