Like all concerts in Bangalore, we had to endure being stuck in traffic for an hour before finally reaching the venue an hour. It’s almost a rite-of-passage, really. Consequently, we only realized that we’d completely missed the entire opening act when talking to a bald Malayali importer about the concert the next day, and wondered why he was praising an M. Ward.
Either way, walking into the outdoor venue, there was only a laidback, pleasant sense of anticipation for Norah Jones. A mix of young and old, there were ladies in sarees, girls in pretty dresses and flowers in their hair, working professionals who looked liked they’d stepped right from their offices into the concert crowd, and even a few heavy-metal enthusiasts in customary black t-shirts, looking slightly misplaced and apprehensive. Everyone was standing around with drinks and food or sitting in groups on the ground. Every so often, you’d bump into someone you hadn’t met in a while and catch up. It felt as though Norah Jones had invited us all into her backyard to hang out and chill.
Walking onto stage with a little wave, Norah began singing and playing immediately, and didn’t stop for an hour and a half. Her gorgeous voice filled the evening air, as the stage glowed in different colors highlighting the origami cranes suspended from the ceiling by twinkling fairy lights.
Playing a mix of old favorites and songs from her latest album, Norah proved that her voice still has what it takes to attract those accustomed to her ‘Don’t Know Why’ days and others open to new material. The crowd responded enthusiastically to her signature songs, rarely showing much familiarity with the new songs. One of my personal favorites from her latest album was the haunting piano dirge’Miriam’. The song’s eerie notes hung as though suspended in the air – it’s perhaps the most entrancing song about premeditated murder I’ve heard.
Norah sounded more engaged on country-and-jazz whisked material, evident in her covers of Tom Waits’ “Long Way Home”, Hank Williams’ “Cold, Cold Heart” and in the soulful “Lonestar”. Towards the end of the show, she and the band gathered around the microphone, and in true blue-grass spirit, played acoustic instruments including the accordion, as Norah sang “Sunrise”. It was one of the most engaging performances of the evening, with the audience singing along with the “ooh, ooh, ooh, oohs”.
“Don’t Know Why”, “Turn Me On” and “Come Away With Me” felt like drinking warm whiskey. Smooth. Velvet. A solid reminder of why everyone fell in love with her in the first place. The best moments were always when she was on stage by herself, singing, as she sat at the piano or played guitar.
Norah is beautiful. She was charming throughout the concert, thanking the audience for their applause after each song. She even charmed my (the-only-reason-I’m-here-is-because-my-girlfriend-threatened-me ) boyfriend by first complimenting Bangalore on its status as the heavy-metal capital of India, then laughingly apologizing “Sorry, I can’t help you on that”. However, at times, her persona seemed disconnected from the audience. A few times, unfortunately, her efforts to be humourous and complimentive came across as snooty.
I never thought I’d get a chance to see Norah Jones perform live. I’m so glad I did. It was a night of delicate enchantment. I wrapped myself in the velvet softness of her voice and dreamt of her songs all night long.