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Live Review: Norah Jones – 16th November 2023 – Royal Festival Hall, London, UK

5 min read

Over the course of 10 days, the capital plays host to one of the finest series on the musical calendar – the EFG London Jazz Festival. While the streets of London may be starting to frost over, fans from around the world are flocking to the city to catch one of the most diverse and intriguing line-ups of the festival in some years with not just superstars of the worlds Jazz genre finding a place in the programme, but also an array of incredible homegrown talent. But it’s been New York megastar Norah Jones that has really created an additional buzz about this years event.

Much like Shania Twain wove pop music into her country penning’s to make the genre intertwine within the world of mainstream pop, Norah Jones could easily be credited as doing something slightly similar for Jazz around the same time – she made it cool to love. Having celebrated the 20th anniversary of her record breaking, independently released debut album, Come Away With Me last year, Jones has been playing venues the width and breadth of the UK this month including a recent sold out performance at the London Palladium. The 9-time Grammy winning icon of piano and voice has treated fans to her impressive catalogue of hits and so we were so excited to be invited along to catch the petite superstar play this show as part of the Jazz Festival – as were the 2,700 over fans that helped mark this show as yet another sell out performance for the New Yorker.

It was an early start and an early finish for the nights set as Norah was ushered on stage at just shy of 8.30pm, following her 3-piece backing band consisting of bass/double bass, percussion and guitar maestros that were so skilled at their instruments that they would each get their own applauses at various points throughout the show. Over just under 90 minutes we were taken through a delicate and mesmerizing journey of songwriting masterpieces that have helped shape Jones’ 20+ year career as both a solo superstar as well as a member of one of the various bands she plays in back home in the US; the singer giving a shout out to her bandmates Catherine Popper and Sasha Dobson of Puss N Boots back in the Big Apple as she went through an upbeat rendition of Don’t Know What It Means.

Opening the show with My Heart Is Full from her 2018 Begin Again compilation and a swaying performance of I’m Alive, it wasn’t long before she took us into mainstream waters with Feels Like Home number, What Am I to You? As Jones sat at her piano wearing loose black pants and a green jacket with a glittery head of a cat emblazoned on the back, the lighting of the stage transformed into shades of red and orange and the singer swayed into a beautiful performance of Sunrise. The crowd were transfixed to the singers skilled and delicate vocals, hanging off each and every word of the Feels Like Home hit.

A slide guitar and double bass complimented most numbers within the set, adding a slightly country feel to numbers like Flame Twin from the singers most recent 2020 studio record, Pick Me Up Off the Floor.  Even Jones showed off her multi-instrumental talents as she moved around the stage throughout the set, picking up either one of many electric guitars or an acoustic guitar when she wasn’t standing at her keyboard or dominating her grand piano.

As Jones showcased her amazing songwriting talents, is was very clear to see just why she has become an icon of her genre and why she holds so many musical accolades for her work in the industry. Her effortless yet pristine vocals swept over the silent crowd who just watched in awe as she ran through a patchwork of career achievements one by one as she gave a nod to each of her half dozen studio albums during the course of the set.

While discussions with the audience were kept to a minimum, those moments where there were interactions proved quite humorous. At one point in the set Jones introduced her band, allowing for the crowd to give their applause, and after her introduction of them she simply said, in a casual tone “and I’m Norah”, as if she considered herself the most unimportant musician on stage. She later went on to tell of her interaction with a customs offer at Heathrow Airport describing “we got a request for this song…actually it was more like a threat”, with a cheeky grin to the crowd before we were treated to a performance of Chasing Pirates which further showed off her pristine and pitch-perfect vocals.

Little moments like this were dotted throughout the night and gave a genuine feeling of a superstar that was down to earth and humbled to be playing to her fans.

It will always, of course, be songs that catapulted the singer into the world of mainstream success that would peak the audiences interest most of all and that was evident last night, and that was blatantly evident not by any rapturous applause or standing ovations (though there were several of both as well as a few song requests and even a marriage proposal thrown out from the audience), but from the still silence of a crowd that were listening so intently to the performance. As soon as the opening chords to the musicians signature hits Come Away With Me and closing number Don’t Know Why were played and the colour of the velvet curtain behind the stars performance being turned into a hazy shade of cool blue, we were taken right back to 2002 and that exceptional 27 million selling debut LP and its sheer brilliance – a brilliance that capped the night off perfectly as they bowed to the crowd for another incredible UK performance.