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There is something so delightfully, seasonally satisfying about a summer concert at the Hollywood Bowl. Just as an acoustic jam can soothe your soul in September, hot August nights feel destined to be spent at the legendary amphitheatre, with good company, good tunes, and good wine. Norah Jones and her excellent band put on a show at the Bowl last night as delicious and smooth as the venue’s atmosphere – subtle, classic, and perfect for summertime.
Opener Cory Chisel and the Wandering Sons nearly upstaged Ms. Jones with their insanely stylish blend of Americana alt-folk. Hepcat Cory and his glossy blonde bandmate Adriel Harris look like a pair of movie stars, joined by a baby David Byrne-type on guitar. Their sound is criminally excellent, reminiscent of Jules Shear or The Band with Emmylou Harris. When Adriel’s voice breaks through for a solo, it’s like jumping in an ice-cold pool on a scorching day – a perfect shock to the system. All their ballads were top notch; love song “Laura,” was particularly darling. They played us out on a traditional spiritual, with a little singalong to boot.
Norah arrived with a happy little wave to all seventeen thousand fans; she planted her cowboy boots and began. The hours that followed were filled with a gentle blend of blues, bluegrass and a mysterious drizzle of psychedelia. Her band of shaggy haired white boys really rocked out, while Ms. Jones remained mostly reserved throughout. Performance personas aside, the musicianship is off the charts – from the dreamiest cowgirl jam to the psuedo-acoustic encores, you’d be hard pressed to find a more put-together and downright ON IT ensemble.
Her new songs are enjoyable, but she went ahead and assured us, early on: “We’ll do some old songs too, don’t worry.” “It’s Gonna Be” from 2009’s The Fall was a personal favorite – a saucy little number which put her voice at its’ purry best, all sultry and swell. Her cover of the Grateful Dead’s “It Must Have Been the Roses” was enchanting, and her ‘solo’ set – two songs on piano, with the band on a break – was a solid reminder of why everyone fell in love with her in the first place: she’s got a songwriting style that drips with sophistication, and a voice more luxurious than molten chocolate. “Don’t Know Why,” was one of the two solo tunes, and the downtempo performance milked every drop of its delicate magic. She welcomed the band back for a thrilling rendition of “Sinkin’ Soon” – a drunken, honky tonk ditty off her 2007 record, Not to Late.
“California. I get it, I totally get it,” she admitted toward the end of the set, before launching into “Black,” a song she made with Danger Mouse “here in California.” She polished off the main set with “Lone Star” (“I’m from Texas, you know”) then concluded with a stripped-down set up – resonator guitar, upright bass, acoustic guitar, single drum, and accordion. These ‘unplugged’ encores were a beautiful epilogue for a pitch-perfect night.