“She’s like Robitussin,” a concertgoer quipped. “She puts me to sleep.”
True, Norah Jones’ voice could be bottled and sold as a muscle relaxer: Husky and honeyed, a sultry sedative, it can make eyelids so heavy, it’s as if they were made of concrete.
Ever been in a car accident? You know the way things seem to move in slow motion for an instant? Well, Jones’ tunes can be like that, stre-e-e-e-tching the fabric of time, except without the fireworks of the ensuing crash.
But this doesn’t mean that Jones’ repertoire is inherently somnolent. By turns languid and lively, Jones’ catalog demonstrates that she’s just skilled at the fine art of understatement, where less is more — more or less.
Even though she played to a sold-out Pearl on Sunday night, there were times when the hall was disarmingly quiet. Seriously, at one point, someone knocked their drink to the venue floor and the sound of the glass clanging to the ground ricochetted through the room like shotgun fire.
Even Jones seemed a little unnerved by the hush that had befallen the audience. “Are you OK?” she asked the crowd at one point. Oh, they were more than that.
This was a couples-heavy show, and many of those in attendance took it in with their companion’s head on their shoulder or their arms clasped around one another.
In this context, Jones’ songs registered as a series of lovelorn lullabies, but they had plenty of kick in their step.
Taking the stage armed with a red Fender, Jones plucked at her guitar with purpose, soloing upon occasion with her weight shifted to the back of her heels.
She dedicated the majority of the 20-song, 90-minute set — including the first seven numbers — to her latest album, the rootsy, superb “The Fall.” The disc sees Jones further distancing herself from the pristine, jazz-inflected pop that characterized much of her smash debut, 2002’s “Come Away With Me,” a trajectory that Jones has been following for some time now.
From the high-steppin’ honky-tonk swing of “Tell Your Mama” to an energetic cover of Willie Nelson’s “What Do You Think of Her Now?,” buoyed with bright three-part harmonies as Jones’ voice rose to the rafters along with those of her bassist and one of her guitarists, the show pulsed with a welcome earthiness.
Or course, there were Jones’ standards, a spare, lovely “Don’t Know Why,” where Jones’ singing was as naked and unadorned as her emoting, and an equally impassioned “Come Away With Me.”
But when it was all said and done, this show was largely given to Jones’ fondness for the sounds of Nashville’s past.
“How about we pretend we’re at the Grand Ole Opry for a couple of songs?” Jones asked at the beginning of a two-song encore, joined at the lip of the stage by her bandmates, where they harmonized into a single vintage microphone.
Backed by accordion and steel guitar, they turned in rollicking, foot-stompin’ takes on “Sunrise” and “Creepin’ In” with the crowd clapping along.
It was an ending, that, for Jones, felt like a new beginning.
Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476.REVIEW
Who: Norah Jones
Where: The Pearl at the Palms
Attendance: 2,500 (sold out)