Monday, June 22, 2009

Review of Diana Krall's yesterday concert at nTelos

(pic by vill Tiernan for The Virginian-Pilot)

Diana Krall makes an intimate evening of it at nTelos
By Malcolm Venable
The Virginian-Pilot
June 22, 2009

No doubt they got ties, tools and special breakfasts on Sunday, but some of the luckiest dads in Tidewater got a chance to see the enthralling jazz singer Diana Krall at the nTelos Wireless Pavilion in Portsmouth for Father’s Day.

The cruel heat, which made the rest of the weekend unsuitable for outside gathering, had relented by the evening. And so with balmy breezes swooshing through the outdoor venue, a better scenario in which to enjoy Krall and her trio could hardly be imaginable.

Her brand is serious. Krall is not showy, ribald, gimmicky nor chummy, but an intense and almost humorless performer whose style of ethereal and piercing music is more often associated with clubs or concert halls. And that’s part of what made the show so transcendent — even at a big outdoor venue, even with her stoic, nearly cold sense of mystery.

Krall, who sang songs including “I Love Being Here With You” and “Let’s Fall in Love," proved adept at wooing the large crowd with an experience that felt intimate and sensual.

Krall took to the stage, wearing a black sleeveless dress that displayed arms rivaling Michelle Obama's, sat on a stool in front of a Steinway, said, "1, 2, 3" and started playing "I Love Being Here With You." She does not wear a lot of makeup, her hair was slightly curly but not very glamorous, and close-up shots of her hands manipulating the keys showed no jewelry and sensibly cut, unpolished nails. The message was that Krall is not showy, ribald, gimmicky or chummy, but intense and serious. And anyway, who needs smoke and mirrors when you're utterly captivating?

One could even have mistaken Krall for being entirely humorless as she and her perfect band -- drums, upright bass, guitar -- drove through more songs, including "You Call It Madness." Her voice is a somewhat scratchy, warm and tender blanket you kind of want to curl up in, but even still, she can seem aloof and distant.

Krall, who is married to the singer-songwriter Elvis Costello, does indeed have a sense of humor, and it is as wry and ironic as you'd expect from someone like her: the queen of the NPR set.

She acknowledged the holiday and sang a witty ditty she said was inspired by Groucho Marx. "According to mother," the lyrics went, "you're our father, and that's good enough for us." Then -- and this was roughly four songs in -- she said, "Hold on. Before I play another song, I should say hello."

"Where's Elvis?" someone called out.

"He's working," said the 44-year-old Canadian. "But I'll tell him you asked about him. I had the pleasure of meeting your fine president of the United States recently. He said, 'Hey, Diana! How's Elvis?' I said, 'He's good, thanks for asking.'" She went on to smirk, smile and guffaw, but these asides happened so infrequently, and with such a sense of restrained self-consciousness, that you knew that when she does it, she's sincere.

Krall regaled the audience with a few tales of family life -- being on the road with her two sons inspired a touching overture -- but she more importantly regaled the audience with top-notch jazz music. Her band would sometimes venture into thrilling displays; they showed the kind of coordination and free-falling experimentation often associated with clubs or concert halls rather than an outdoor arena.

And that's part of what made the show transcendent. Even at a big outdoor venue, even with her stoic, nearly cold sense of mystery, she proved adept at wooing the large crowd with an experience that felt intimate. At times, as when she sang "P.S. I Love You," the venue was so starkly quiet you could hear an empty plastic cup being dragged across the concrete floor by the wind.

Krall put on a performance that was ethereal, restrained and sensual; it was the kind of lovely, magical evening that might have prompted the mostly over-40 men in the audience to go home and become fathers anew.

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