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Under the Stars with Norah Jones
by Autumn Thatcher
 
 
 
photos by Dave Tada

ast Saturday’s clear night sky painted with stars and a bright moon served as a beautiful addition to the red velvet curtains and glittering backdrop that stood on the stage of the Norah Jones and the Handsome Band concert.

The USANA Amphitheatre was packed with people, as it usually is whenever a big name comes to Salt Lake City. This time, however, the scene could almost be mistaken for a picnic rather than a concert. The seats near the stage were filled with people who spoke to each other in low voices, sipping on beers and wrapping themselves in blankets or their loved one’s arms. The lawn of the amphitheatre was nearly hidden beneath the blankets and sweatshirts that people quietly sat on awaiting the soothing voice of the nation’s hottest figure in jazz-pop.

The serene environment at the amphitheatre livened up a little as Norah Jones walked on stage. With her long, dark hair held away from her face by a thin black headband, Jones looked more like someone coming to see the show than the artist performing. Wearing a tank top and jeans, Jones gave a brief wave to the audience and walked over to sit at her piano, where she immediately began playing. The seductive voice of Norah Jones was instantly magical as she began singing “What am I to You”, the second track on her recently released album, Feels Like Home. Jones and her Handsome Band proved to be talented entertainers, as each member of the band was given their own solo time, in which they proved to posses just as much instrumental talent as Jones possesses vocally.

Perhaps the most amazing element of the concert was the fact that Jones sounds even better on stage than she does on her album. The rich, soothing voice that has made Jones famous came across so clearly that one had to question whether or not this was really a live show. Jones hit every note perfectly; the transition from piano to forte was powerful in every song that required it. Each song was followed by a polite clap from the huge audience who remained so quiet during her performance that it was easy to forget there were other people there.

The magical moments of Jones’ performance were occasionally broken up, ironically, by the singer herself. Though she has proven an immense talent in co-writing her music and performing both vocally and instrumentally, Jones has not yet mastered the technique of working the audience. In between songs, Jones would awkwardly smile at the audience and sometimes talk to the people up front who would yell at her between sets. Her responses were cute, often consisting of shrugged shoulders and funny faces directed towards the audience. When she did speak to the entire audience, she didn't really seem sure what to say. This usually resulted in a random story or joke that she would hurriedly cut off by jumping into her next set.

Jones’ awkward interactions with the audience served as a reminder to her fans that being a famous performer is still rather new to the successful artist. With her first album selling over 18 million copies and earning her an abundance of Grammies, Jones is still settling into the initial shock of going from a lounge player to filling concert halls and amphitheatres with over-eager fans. Her second album, Feels Like Home, sold 1 million copies in its first week of release and is still seeing sales climb.

Jones focused on her new album throughout the performance, introducing the various songs that she sang and assigning the credit to whichever member of the Handsome Band wrote or co-wrote the song. One of the better numbers was a Gram Parsons cover that Jones performed entitled, “She”. Jones did an excellent job performing that song, and it was in that performance that her voice was strongest and most convincing. Sadly, Jones’ cover of “She” is not found on either of her albums, but was relished by the audience during her concert.

As the brief concert (Jones’ performance lasted a little over an hour)
drew to an end, some of the magic that Jones brought with her lingered in the
air. Many of the fans walked to their cars during the last number in order to avoid traffic, and as they pulled away, they could hear the crystal clear voice
of Jones follow them out, leaving a sense of enchantment that will hopefully stay with them until Norah Jones once again graces Salt Lake City with her stunning voice.
autumn@red-mag.com

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