Norah Jones – Copley Symphony Hall, San Diego

The very elegant venue was filled with well-coiffed couples ready for an evening of pleasant music.  More than several were undoubtedly jolted at the ambitious sonic textures Jones wrought with her four piece back-up band.

In much the same way Emmylou Harris was energized by her collaboration with Daniel Lanois, Jones has spent some productive time with Danger Mouse.  Her current album features his production prowess, and the result on stage is a sharp departure from her Hollywood Bowl debut several years ago.  Then, she recreated the lilting melodies of her first album and all was pleasing in the warm summer evening air.

The first hint I had of her ability to move in a live context across ambitious musical styles was at a Gram Parsons tribute concert several years ago.  The evening’s question was whether Parsons’ buddy Keith Richards would appear, and he finally swaggered onstage for the inevitable show closer “Wild Horses.”  (Parsons and Richards worked on the song before the Stones ever released it).  His sandpaper and whiskey vocals were tempered in his duet with Jones, who brought her honey smooth vocals to the concert’s peak moment.

Norah Jones and her band are in the midst of a global tour

At the Symphony Hall, Jones cleverly covered songs by the likes of Tom Waits (no stranger to jagged sonic textures) and delved into territory assayed by Wilco (who recently played a stunning gig at the same venue).  Outfitted like Linda Ronstadt in her Stone Pony / Different Drum era (ponytail, fetching skirt and cowboy boots), Jones was responsive to crowd chatter and gave her band plenty of room to stretch.

For the encore, she brought the band out from behind their amplified instruments, where they assembled like Mumford and Sons around one microphone.  In a return to basics, she gave the crowd more of what they probably expected: faithful renditions of several early hits “Sunrise,” “Come Away With Me” and “Not Too Late.”

Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.