February 22, 2007

Peaceful Uneasy Feeling: Not Too Late by Norah Jones

Do you remember how you felt upon discovering that a familiar Disney fairy tale had a darker counterpart by the Brothers Grimm?

That is what it’s like to listen to Not Too Late, the third and by far the most peculiar album by Norah Jones. While its predecessors Come Away With Me and Feels Like Home could soothe you to sleep with a smile on your face, Not Too Late compels you to keep one suspicious eye open at all times.

A stark guitar, not Jones’ accustomed piano playing, begins the album on “Wish I Could,” the first of several songs with an ominous subtext. Jones wrote or co-wrote every track this time around, so perhaps she’s confessing her innermost thoughts (or premonitions). Perhaps she’s experimenting deeper within the framework of her own musical talent. Maybe she’s just kookier than anybody thought.

Whatever the case,
Not Too Late holds up as an album. Yet while the chanteuse still sounds sultry, what she’s singing about may not exactly put you at ease.

February 13, 2007

Rather Laugh With the Sinners Than Cry With the Saints: Billy Joel Live in Orlando

February 10, 2007: Amway Arena, Orlando
“It’s not about less hair,” Billy Joel commented on his increasing baldness. “It’s about more head.”

At the Amway Arena in Orlando, the Piano Man put on a solid two-and-a-half-hour show packed with classics, favorites, and his ageless New York attitude.

Starting with “Prelude/Angry Young Man,” Joel matched the briskness of the 1975 Turnstiles version note for note. With the sellout (behind the stage and all) crowd still reaching its seats, “My Life” ensured that no one would soon sit down.

In between songs, Joel thanked the fans “in the shitty seats” behind the stage and the ones sitting in the nosebleeds “in Tampa.” He said he needed the money to pay for his car insurance.

After giving the crowd a choice between “Vienna” and “Summer, Highland Falls,” he sang the latter (“Vienna,” a classic from The Stranger, rarely wins, unfortunately).

Before playing “All About Soul,” from 1993’s River of Dreams, Joel confessed that he hadn't played the song in years and if something went wrong, then it would prove the show wasn't taped. “It’ll be a real rock and roll fuck-up.” It wasn't.

The pinnacle of the concert came with a plaintive rendition of “She's Always A Woman.” Whatever it was that got that song in the setlist (Valentine’s Day looming, the fact that he’s married again), it sure felt good to hear it performed.

After strapping on an electric guitar, Joel asked the audience to listen to his drum roadie sing a “religious song.” “Give him a chance,” he said in mock sincerity as the (robust) roadie ignited the arena with a blistering version of AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell.” The sound of 18,000 people singing along to that one surely reached the heavens (or somewhere south).

The main set ended with “Big Shot,” “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me,” and “You May Be Right,” inspiring Joel to jump around the stage with an upright microphone, leaning toward the fans in the front rows.

“Only The Good Die Young” began the encore, followed by the epic “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant.” Like always, “Piano Man” ended the evening, but not before Billy Joel offered his usual post-show advice to the audience: “Don’t take any shit from anybody!”