Sunday, March 13, 2005

Norah on my mind

I almost didn't watch her show. For a time after I found out she was coming here to Manila, I was indifferent. I was no big fan of hers; I don't even have her CD (though I do have one live show courtesy of Reena). But a few days before the show, I suddenly realized I didn't want to miss seeing somebody as talented as her sing and play live. That's exactly how I felt about Alicia Keys; wasn't a big fan of hers either. I like some of her songs and that was it. But after watching Alicia sing up a storm at the Grammy's I suddenly regretted not going to see her when she was here. Besides, Norah Jones was Norah Jones. It wasn't like there was a chance she would disappoint. Well, yeah there probably was, but based on everything I've seen and heard about her, the odds were she was worth the admission price.

And boy was she worth every cent.

But before I get to her show, I just have to say 15,000++ peso for front row seats, no matter who the artist is…I think that's fucking obscene. No way am I going to shell out that much to get seats front and center. Not even for John Mayer. (Well, not in principle, but…we'll see).

At a few minutes past 8pm, the voice over announcer introduced Norah Jones and the Handsome Band. Just like that. Without any kind of pre-show gimmick or theatrics. The fact that there weren't any other distractions, or even a front act, pretty much sealed the deal that the night was going to be about Norah and her music, nothing else. And based on the thunderous applause the audience gave her, I think most everyone there was thinking the same thing, too.

Earlier in the day, I had listened to both her CDs (which my housemate owned) to at least familiarize myself with her songs. Of course, aside from the mainstream hits, the best song in the album for me had to be "Turn Me On." I was pleasantly surprised that she started with that song. After that, it just kept getting better and better. You know that feeling you get when you watch an artist sing one of his or her own songs live and you get a little bit nervous and antsy, and eventually, disappointed because no matter how hard the artist tries, it's never really as good as you want it to be, or at least, as it is on the record? Well, it wasn't like that at all. Norah's voice was clear and impeccable; and to quote that mobile phone company catchphrase, simply amazing. It was smooth and silky, almost sensual. Every song was so perfectly delivered; it was almost too good to be true. Almost. Because she was right there, and I knew whatever talent she had, it was all natural and didn't need to be heightened up by glossy production numbers or onstage histrionics.

And she was funny, too. A little. Right after singing the monster hit "Don't Know Why," she told the audience about the time she sang that song on Sesame Street. Elmo asked her why she was feeling sad and she told him she was supposed to go out on a date with the letter Y, only "Y" didn't show up, so she was singing "don't know Y, he didn't come." I'm not sure if it was still part of the original Sesame Street script, but when someone in the audience shouted out "Why?" she said, because "Y was with his X." Haha.

Then there was the episode with the mosquito. Right before singing "The Nearness of You," she noticed one buzzing around her. Unlike most of us natives, she obviously wasn't used to being in the presence of a blood-sucking insect; she kept ducking around the pesky thing all throughout the song. Oh well. As my friend Grace said, "Welcome to Asia, Norah." Still, shame on Araneta. It's supposed to be a world-class venue. It won't do any of us any good to have artists and performers talk about mosquitoes hovering on stage with them during the show.

But, all's good. It was an excellent show and I'm glad I went with my instinct at the last minute and watched it. Norah and her band (who by the way is an amazingly talented group of musicians, especially the drummer) came back for three more songs after what they said was their last. As expected, the audience gave them a standing ovation. I still don't consider myself a huge fan, but I am definitely in awe of her. After all, it's not everyday you get to watch - and enjoy - a genuine talent at work.

Now I wonder when Mr. Mayer will make an appearance round these parts…


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