Rickie Lee Jones live - review
Bruce Mason Centre
March 15 2013
Anyone expecting to bathe in the warm glow of nostalgia at this intimate evening with Rickie Lee Jones may have gone away just a little disappointed. It’s not that she failed to perform the hits – heck, she even capitulated to a rendering of that great thorn in her side, “Chuck E’s In Love”. It’s just that she re-animated every gesture so artfully, and so completely inhabited each piece, that the songs were reborn anew.
It still hurts the brain trying to figure out the component parts of the unerringly distinctive Rickie Lee Jones musical characteristic. Throw blues, soul, beat poetry, a touch of Broadway, and a deep understanding of jazz into the mix, and you’re still fumbling. Her performance – aided by the evocative and intuitive accompaniment of Jeff Pevar (guitar, mandolin, keyboards) and Ed Willett (cello) – demonstrated just how fragile yet robust her compositions are, with endless capacity for subtle inflexion, and improvisational interjections.
Moving between guitar and piano, Jones lived up to her eccentric reputation with monologues about where guitars go when they die, an encounter with an angry Irish fisherman on a holiday in New Zealand, and how very long it was since she last had sex (“I don’t want to have sex anymore. Fuck sex!”) At one point, she demonstrated her desire to ‘prance’ with a brief a cappella rendition, complete with critique of the sexist lyrics, of Rod Stewart’s “Every Picture Tells A Story”.
The show was a lesson in the art of musical performance, and it was her voice that literally took the breath away. At 58, Jones has lost none of the trumpet-like top-end clarity or power of her extraordinary instrument, and she’s mastered the art of combining the expressivity of jazz intonation with the emotionality of the confessional singer-songwriter.
Her repertoire ranged from obscure cuts from lesser-known albums like the anti-George Bush “Ugly Man” to audience favourites like “Satellites” and “Coolsville”; and her father’s swoonsome “The Moon Is Full Of Gold” contrasted with a brutal, kick-ass version of the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy For The Devil”.
It was an intense, especially extended two-hour set that elicited several standing ovations and much love reciprocated between audience and performer. “You can’t know how incredible it is to sing for you and feel your collective energy”, said Jones, seemingly overcome by the respect accorded her. True to form, however, the show ended abruptly, and despite much hubbub, calls for an encore went unanswered. Genius.