08 April 2018 (gig)
12 May 2018
Norah Jones returns to Milan at the Teatro Degli Arcimboldi, this time as a 3 piece band, including acclaimed musicians Brian Blade on drums and Chris Thomas on bass. The drums, piano, double bass and electric bass and amp are set up in the middle of the big stage and as the three amble on, they seemed dwarfed by the theatre’s presence engulfing them and their instruments. As the audience celebratory applause finally dissipates, all that is left is to focus on Norah and the band as the ability to listen and absorb the intimate atmosphere is what is most required tonight.
Norah Jones took the pop/jazz world by surprise in 2002 with the release of her album ‘Come Away With Me’. The daughter of Indian composer and sitar player Ravi Shankar, she was only 23 at the time and the album was an immediate, well, sensation, as the artistry and quality of the songs, along with the quite sensual, seductive, most distinctive of voices sent shivers along the spine of both younger and older, fellow musicians and critics, till the heart and mind were pierced and infused long-term.
Since then many very interesting collaborations have followed, other great albums, some acting even, and yet she manages to still intrigue us all, unusual in these days as her notoriety seems to come with a capacity to stay away from the limelight and so be very mysterious. Anyone who can be married with 2 kids and still have her musician husband’s anonymity be intact must indeed be a very private person who guards her personal life.
So how could we not expect that tonight there would be very few asides with either the crowd or even her fellow musicians, and that her intense gaze would mainly be straight ahead of her as she focused on her every next move. Brian Blade and Chris Thomas create a wonderful backbone for Norah Jones really superb piano playing, with their subtle use of space and touch. Norah, dressed in an elegant long black dress and amazingly for a pianist, high heels, has such a beautiful face, it is quite mesmerizing and minutes pass as we all gaze, yet the intimacy needed, being in such a big theatre takes a while to be established. However the bustle of our everyday lives and social media conversations on screens are slowly but surely forgotten and left aside.
So it’s not really until ‘What Am I To You?’ that the crowd settle in and relax. There are no big screens, just some simple stylish lighting on display. Norah announces ‘Angel Dream (No.2)’ as a tribute to Tom Petty as she later will with JJ Cale’s ‘Don’t Go To Strangers’ and the magnificently performed ‘Don’t Be Denied’ by Neil Young, but aside from thank you’s and introducing the band in the beginning and end, that is all she says. But then it’s her songs that do the talking for her with that exquisite voice which is, well, truly wonderful to hear.
‘Sunrise’ receives rapturous applause whilst gems from the latest album “Day Break”’, ‘It’s A Wonderful Time For Love’, ‘Carry On’ and the magnificent ‘Flipside’ are supremely executed with really scintillating but subtle interplay between the band.
The 2 encores are both from her debut album with ‘I’ve Got To See You Again’ played looser than all the other songs performed tonight with bass and drums grooving in a more freejazz style and Norah adapting to the mood as opposed to the main set where Norah took the lead. The closing track is the beautiful ‘Don’t Know Why’ which is superlatively performed. Slightly slower, adding more weight to every note, every space in the song, Norah creates a new vocal hook for the verse which takes you to the upper reaches of heaven, and for a few minutes I feel as if I am the only person sitting in front of her such have the surroundings been stripped away, such is her aura.
It is quite a moment.
Almost side stage she stands in-between Blade and Thomas, politely thanks the crowd and then disappears. The enigma that is Norah Jones perfectly intact.
1. Sleeping Wild
2. American Dream
3. After the Fall
4. What Am I to You?
5. Angel Dream (No. 2)
6. It's a Wonderful Time for Love
8. Don't Go to Strangers
10. Out On The Road
11. Begin Again
12. I Knew It Was You
13. Little Broken Hearts
14. Don't Be Denied
16. Carry On
17. I've Got To See You Again
18. Don't Know Why