Norah Jones at the Santa Barbara Bowl

Paul Wellman

Norah Jones at the Santa Barbara Bowl

Norah Jones at the Santa Barbara Bowl

The Grammy-Winning Singer Stops in S.B. on Her Little Broken HeartsTour

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

It was a balmy evening in Santa Barbara last Tuesday night when Grammy-winning chanteuse Norah Jones took the stage at the Bowl. In town in support of her latest album, Little Broken Hearts, Jones opened with “Take It Back,” a song with a menacing message. The tune, like the new record it comes from, has a baleful bent; departing from her smooth-jazz tendencies, Jones experiments with rock riffs and dark lyrics to great success.

Norah Jones at the Santa Barbara Bowl
Click to enlarge photo

Paul Wellman

Norah Jones at the Santa Barbara Bowl

Her new material translated well to live performance — the swirl of electric guitar, hard-patter drumming, and solid bass went nicely with Jones’s steady, strong vocals. In addition to a slew of numbers from Hearts, Jones favored the capacity audience with past hits: She trotted out acoustic versions of “Creepin’ In,” “Sunrise,” and “Come Away with Me,” performed a solo piano arrangement with staccato phrasing of “Don’t Know Why,” and rendered a fantastic cover of the Grateful Dead’s country classic “It Must Have Been Roses.”

Despite the uptick in musical fervor, Jones is unflinchingly low-key; grungy guitar, driving drums, and sinister lyrics couldn’t phase her mellow vibe and beatific presence. It was a delightful contrast, the lovely singer in a sweet floral frock calmly crooning, “I’m gonna smile when I take your life,” during her murder ballad “Miriam.”

For more than a decade, Jones has purred in listeners’ ears; it was nice to finally hear her give a roar.

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