Can one of the top-selling musicians in today's world really be so ... nice?
Photo Credit: Clay Patrick McBride
It appears so. Norah Jones offered her calming, but enchanting, music to a welcoming crowd at Nashville's Grand Ole Opry House on Thursday evening (Aug. 12) during the opening night of her current tour. She played Nashville around the same time last year, and she has become remarkably more comfortable since then. Still, she occasionally apologized for her supposedly lame between-songs banter, which actually wasn't bad at all. It sure beats all that "Are you here to party?!" stuff that Nashville is used to.
Jones opened her set with "The Prettiest Thing," sitting at the piano, then moved to an electronic keyboard for "Nightingale." For the first few songs, she alternated between the instruments, warming up to the audience. Without having to build a set around a hit single, she managed an excellent pace for her low-key music. When she slowed it down even more in the middle of the set, she chalked it up to a mellow groove. "But you expected that coming to this show," she teased.
While most of today's music is geared to a younger audience, Jones packed the house with baby-boomers, proving that they do indeed buy tickets. They don't usually show up to hear a 25-year-old singer, but nothing about Jones' success has been expected to unfold this way.
Some would still maintain that Jones is more of a country singer than a jazz crooner. The point wasn't lost on the audience. She honored a request for "Turn Me On," a John D. Loudermilk song from her debut album, and earned herself the biggest response of the night -- more than the typical encore reaction. Jones also delivered a lovely rendition of Gram Parsons' "She," and when she's not singing about loneliness or lingering afternoons, she's certainly a capable storyteller.
Being the first night of a tour, it's easy to forgive a few missed musical cues here and there. It's not like the confetti machines exploded on the wrong song. Jones didn't give any dirty looks anywhere, either. Rather, she just assumed that she was rambling too much. One could maintain that she should hire a stronger group of musicians when she goes on tour, but the folks in her Handsome Band are her friends.
Adding to the laid-back ambience, Oriental rugs were spread across the stage and enormous red and orange lounge lamps dangled from the ceiling. With mood lighting accentuated in lieu of any unnecessary bells and whistles, Jones' concert was solely about the music. For those who attend concerts for their ears more than their eyes, that's nice indeed.
Jones herself introduced her opening act, Amos Lee. A Philadelphia folk singer, Lee already possesses a cocky stage manner but noted several times that he was delighted to sing on the Opry stage and even wore a suit for the occasion. Musically speaking, he's like a John Mayer writer with a Vince Gill voice. With only six songs, he gratefully did not wear out his welcome. His studio album is expected early next year.
"The Prettiest Thing"
"What Did You Say"
"What Am I to You"
"The Moon Is in Your Eyes"
"In the Morning"
"I Don't Miss You at All"
"Don't Know Why"
"The Long Way Home"
"I've Got to See You Again"
"Come Away With Me"
"Life Is a Carnival"
"Turn Me On"
"Arms of a Woman"
"Keep It Loose and Keep It Tight"
"Seen It All Before"
"Bottom of the Barrel"
"God Blessed Our Love"
"I'm on Your Side"