Rickie Lee Jones
Old Town School of Folk Music, Chicago, 17/11/2015
published: 23 /
Lisa Torem finds Rickie Lee Jones' News Orleans-inspired songwriting to be shining when she returns to the Old Town School of Folk Music in her birth city of Chicago with a new line-up in support of her recent fan-funded release, 'The Other Side of Desire'
Rickie Lee Jones in muted, autumn colors entertained an anxious summer crowd, when touring in support of her first new album of original songs in a decade, ‘The Other Side of Desire’. From the get-go, the two-time Grammy winner gave the impression that she was very happy to not only be back in her birth city, but to be back at the artist-friendly Old Town School of Folk Music, where she was warmly greeted by the sold-out house.
She began her set by strumming her acoustic guitar as she plaintively sang reflective ‘Young Blood’ from her 1979 self-titled debut. The rhythmic pace evolved quickly as she brought in her mostly Canadian touring band consisting of Catherine Ledoux (violin and backing vocals), Francois Plante (bass), Vincent Rehel(keys), Max Sansalon (drums) and Joss Tellier (guitar).
Bright accordion riffs and dynamic guitar soloing fleshed out ‘Weasel and the White Boys Cool’, a quirky ballad inspired by songwriter Sal Bernardi and ‘The Last Chance Texaco’, in which the versatile singer ripped through the bohemian word play that has endeared her to a bevy of contemporary songwriters and stylists. Her instinctual jazz phrasing and acclaimed street credibility came out in full force.
The upbeat and soul exorcising ‘Jimmy Choos’ from the new album boasted some of the best new lyrics of the night. “I know about giving up on yourself/I know about giving up," she sang with an air of discontent. "I know about Motel 6” she sang, with a shy but direct smile. This slice-of-troubadour song really struck a resonant chord with the audience. Jones also joked about living in a cave as a hippie and how weird it was, trying to explain her lifestyle to aging parents. The charm of Rickie Lee Jones is that she is not only an outstanding storyteller vocally; her narratives add a lot of humour and help her fans identify closely with her experiences.
Jones also brought us up to speed about how moving to New Orleans has impacted her writing and then illustrated the point by crooning the French-flavoured ‘Valtz De Mon Pere (Lover’s Oath') off of the new fan-funded album. ‘Fai Connais Pas’ was another treat, influenced by her 2013 move. “I have so many home towns,” she shared before launching into bittersweet ‘Blinded by the Hunt’ and the austere ‘Haunted.’ She also took this time to shred electric.
Early hit ‘It Must Be Love’ was one of the best received. ‘I Wasn’t Here’ was enhanced by Ledoux’s sensitive violin. Jones looked on when not singing, seemingly very proud of her talented ensemble and how they arranged her breadth of classic and new ballads.
On piano, she played ‘Feet on the Ground,’ the story of an addict, which cleverly cascaded into a buoyant waltz. Her ‘Hi-Lili Hi-Lo’ from 1991’s ‘Pop Pop’ was sung with an absolute sincerity - a tug-at-the-heart ache underscored her lovely voice. The performance was absolutely mesmerizing,
At first, ‘Christmas in New Orleans’ seemed like a bit of a stretch in the midst of a hot, Chicago summer, but the sultry tempo and old world sentiment turned out to be a winning combination.
‘Satellites (‘Flying Cowboys’) rekindled lots of warm memories. ‘Juliette’ found her attributing her best friend. “She’s been with me for thirteen long years and I notice that she’s getting grey,” Jones quipped about the song subject, her canine chum, as she tousled her own mane of long, blonde hair. A devout animal rights supporter, she had urged the audience to call the ASPCA and provide water to a stray dog tied to a post outside.
‘Infinity’ was one of the most experimental arrangements performed, brimming with lush textures and unexpected turns.
Maybe Rickie Lee Jones, world traveller, has finally found a hometown that doubles as muse. Her liberal use of French and obvious love of the New Orleans culture couldn’t have been more apparent. With a documentary on the horizon, ‘The Other Side of Desire’ getting positive reviews and her much-anticipated tour hitting major American cities, (and ending in Europe in December), she’ll have lots of news to share with her neighbours.
Photos by Philamonjaro