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Norah Jones at the Ohio Theatre

by Kristopher Weiss on June 13, 2017

Boosted by a single mic and the pristine acoustics of Columbus’ Ohio Theatre, an acoustic guitar-wielding Norah Jones, accompanied by resonator guitar, upright bass, piano and a brushed snare drum, closed out her May 30 concert with “Come Away with Me.”

This hushed, final number found the musicians gathered in a small group at the front of the large stage upon which they had spent the previous 90 minutes arrayed in rotating lineups and running through a diverse set of material from Jones’ six albums. It was a splendid end to a splendid evening; a workmanlike performance that didn’t look like work for the folks performing the job at hand.

Bookended with tunes from her 2016 release, Day Breaks - the splintered sunlight of the title track and the heartbreaking beauty of “Carry On,” respectively - the main set saw Jones and her crew of six musicians switching instruments and on-stage positions as they turned Neil Young’s “Don’t Be Denied” into a country-jazz hybrid and transformed the Ohio into a cabaret as Jones, on piano and accompanied by drums and bass, played her best-known song, “Don’t Know Why,” in the middle of her show.

Drummer Greg Wieczorek, organist/pianist Pete Remm and guitarist/pedal-steeler Dan Iead of opening act Aloysius 3 formed the core of Jones’ band and were joined by bassist/pianist Josh Lattanzi and guitarist Jason Roberts. Their versatile support allowed Jones to play piano, keyboards and acoustic and electric guitars under a quasi-psychedelic lightshow that added a delightful visual component to the aural feast.

It was an organic performance from the start as Jones, Lattanzi and Roberts each took turns sitting in with Aloysius 3 during the trio’s majority-instrumental, 30-minute opening set. Remm and Iead are influenced by Booker T. Jones and Jerry Garcia, respectively, and while their original material needs some more time to develop, their chops were evident as they warmed up the crowd.

Their talents were on full display for the main event.

And the main event was like a low-key, big-top circus as the six musicians wandered on and off stage and swapped instruments as the songs demanded. Jones performed alone at the piano. She played the Vince Guaraldi role in a trio format. She was the lead guitarist of a six-piece band and the rhythmic core of smaller configurations.

And at the center of it all was Jones’ voice - a voice my lifetime date correctly described as “the sexiest in the world.” The 38-year-old songstress, in a dark dress and knee-high boots, was a low-profile, but beguiling frontwoman.

Though she doesn’t engage in banter beyond occasionally acknowledging applause and band members, she’s mesmerizing whether she’s playing a bit of lead guitar at center stage, kicking up her legs while perched at an electric keyboard or seated at a piano and singing about love (“I’ve Got to See You Again”), loss (“She’s 22”) and other matters of the heart.

Authors: Kristopher Weiss