I’ve loved Norah Jones’ music since childhood, and when I got the opportunity to buy tickets to this show at Frederik Meijer Gardens, a beautiful music amphitheater in Grand Rapids, MI, I couldn’t pass it up. Fortunately, getting to see Norah Jones live in concert at one of my favorite outdoor venues was nothing less than a dream come true.
We arrived an hour and a half early hoping to secure prime seats at the sold-out show. Thankfully, this effort paid off and we were seated only a few rows back from the stage, dead center. After waiting for about an hour and taking in the gorgeous views offered by the pristine horticulture which decorated the front of the stage, we were then greeted by Norah’s opening act, singer-songwriter Emily King.
To say that both I and everyone in the crowd were blown away by Emily King’s immense talent would have been an understatement. She walked on stage with two other musicians who provided a minimalistic backdrop of keyboards, percussion, and guitar. This arrangement allowed King’s personality and most of all her incredible vocals to take center stage. King’s set consisted of around seven or eight of her own songs, which were separated by a beautifully arranged and performed cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide”. In between each song, King provided anecdotes about each song she performed and repeatedly acknowledged her gratitude towards Jones for giving her the opportunity to perform with such a legendary artist. After seeing King perform live, I’m astonished that she isn’t more well known given her incredible vocal talent and sharp songwriting skills. Though I would have expected nothing less from the opening act at a Norah Jones concert, I was still stunned by King’s effortless talent and stage presence and I will most certainly be checking out her entire discography in the days to come.
After King performed her final song, the entire crowd was clearly just as impressed as I was, giving her a raucous applause. We then waited patiently for Jones and her band to grace the stage, enticingly eyeing the assortment of instruments which were neatly placed on the stage. About a half an hour later, Jones and her band walked out, launching directly into the first song of the night.
Though the tour was officially commemorating the 20th anniversary of Jones’ debut album, Come Away With Me, the setlist was incredibly varied and balanced across Jones’ entire discography. With each song, I eagerly waited to see which instrument each of her band members would switch to. Her bassist switched between a bass guitar and a double bass multiple times over the entire night. Similarly, her guitarist switched between an electric guitar and a pedal steel guitar which offered an interesting variation in instrumentation between the live and recorded arrangements of some of the songs Jones performed. Jones also frequently switched instruments herself, playing both electric guitar and piano with stunning virtuosity alongside her impeccable singing. Emily King also came back on stage to sing a duet with Jones during her song “Tragedy,” much to the awe of the crowd as their vocals perfectly complemented one another.
Jones was also quite candid and eager to engage with the crowd, seeming surprised at the thunderous applause which followed each song she performed. In the dead space between two songs, she even received a lighthearted song request for “Man of the Hour”, which she happily obliged later in the set despite admittedly not having played the song in quite some time. We wouldn’t have known otherwise.
As the night grew darker, fireflies came out during Jones’ performances of some of her most well-known songs. She received a standing ovation from the crowd at the end of “Come Away with Me” and (of course) at the end of her performance. Strangely enough, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a crowd more eager to see and engage with a performer onstage at such a large venue. As Jones and her band took a final bow, I was reminded of how perfect the night was. Ever since I was young, I’ve listened to Norah Jones’ music and seeing her perform these songs in front of me was almost surreal. She’s one of those artists that sounds better live than in the studio, and the addition of Emily King to the ticket was the cherry on top of an already stellar performance.
review and photo by Nick S