It seems inevitable, no matter how early you leave, to become maddeningly stuck in a traffic jam in Bangalore. Consequently, on 8th March, when M. Ward was opening up the Bangalore leg of Norah Jones’ tour in India, my taxi was still slowly inching its way towards the Manpho Convention Center.
When I finally walked into the outdoor venue, there was only a pleasant sense of anticipation for Norah Jones. An eclectic crowd of around 2500 people had gathered – ladies in sarees, girls in pretty dresses and flowers in their hair, IT professionals, and even a few heavy-metal enthusiasts looking slightly unsure of themselves. There was a laidback vibe to the evening; people were 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. It felt as though Norah Jones had invited us all into her backyard to unwind.
Walking quickly onto stage with a simple smile and a little wave to the crowd, Norah Jones wasted no time charming her way through a set that showcased her talent and ever-growing collection of great songs.
It’s hard not to like Norah. She’s still the low-key, sweet looking crooner whose sultry, nocturnal “Come Away With Me” won over millions of people. However, she’s been steadily moving towards musical goals away from that easy ballad. “Little Broken Hearts” is her most intriguing listen.
Under elegant origami cranes suspended from the ceiling by twinkling fairy lights, throughout the concert, Norah moved between electric guitar, electric piano and acoustic piano. Playing a mix of old favorites and songs from her latest album, she proved that her voice still has what it takes to attract those accustomed to her “Don’t Know Why” days. However, try as she did to push her latest collection of songs, her reputation has been made on the sound of her first album, and that’s what the crowd wanted to hear. Rarely showing much familiarity with her latest albums, new songs were met with polite enthusiasm. One of my personal favorites was the haunting piano dirge “Miriam”. The song’s eerie notes hung as though suspended in the evening air – it’s perhaps the most entrancing song about premeditated murder I’ve heard.
Preferring to let her music do most of the talking, Norah smiled and laughed in response to the crowd instead. She made charming conversation sparingly, telling the crowd that she’d had her best meal in India in Bangalore. She also complimented Bangalore on its status as the heavy-metal capital of the country, then laughingly apologized “Sorry, I can’t help you on that note”. A few times, however, her persona seemed disconnected from the audience. A few attempts to be humorous and complementary were misunderstood, and came across as snooty. Nevertheless, she constantly endeared herself to the audience, thanking them after each song when applause erupted.
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”. “Stuck” added some dynamism, showcasing a long jam with the band and featured a great guitar solo. Her classics – “Don’t Know Why”, “Turn Me On” and “Come Away With Me” got a delighted reaction from the crowd. A minute into each song, couples reached for each other, and almost everyone was swaying along to Norah’s velvet-smooth voice: a solid reminder of why everyone fell in love with her in the first place. The best moments of the evening were always when Norah was on stage by herself, singing, as she sat at the piano or played guitar.
Also striking was when Norah and the band gathered around one microphone with acoustic instruments, bluegrass style, to sing “Sunrise”. It was one of the most engaging performances of the evening, with the audience singing along with the “oohs”. Norah closed the show with a beautiful, intimate version of “Come Away With Me”. And as she sang the final “Won’t you come away with me?”, the spell of her whiskey-warm voice lingering softly after the last notes of the song, the entire audience would have answered “Yes”.
Published in Mooze Magazine.