Saturday, August 8, 2015

Concert Review: Diana Krall at the Orpheum Theatre

Diana Krall, "Wallflower" album cover, 2015.

Diana Krall, looking lovely as always, in a promo photo for "Wallflower," 2015.

"Did you really just yell out 'Elvis Costello'?"
Diana Krall gave a splendid performance last night at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis. Krall was in top form on vocals and piano, and she was ably supported by her excellent band, featuring Stuart Duncan on violin and guitar, Anthony Wilson on guitar, Dennis Crouch on bass, Patrick Warren on keyboards, and Karriem Riggins on drums. 

I’ve seen Diana Krall in concert once before, and my review of that 2013 concert at the State Theatre is the most viewed blog post I’ve ever written. I’m not really sure why that review has proved to be so popular. Not to be too self-deprecating about my own writing, but I think it might be so popular because of the pictures that accompany that post, which show Krall at her loveliest on the cover of her 2012 album “Glad Rag Doll.” But regardless of the reason for that review’s popularity, I was looking forward to seeing Diana Krall in concert again. Krall is an excellent live performer, and she has a warm stage presence. She’s also quite funny, and she has a real rapport with her audience. At the beginning of the show, some wiseguy yelled out, “Elvis Costello!” and Krall replied, “Do people go to Elvis Costello concerts and yell out ‘Diana Krall?’” 

The concert started with the gently swinging “We Just Couldn’t Say Goodbye,” and moved on to the bluesy “There Ain’t No Sweet Man that’s Worth the Salt of My Tears,” one of my favorite songs of Krall’s. Both songs are from Krall’s excellent 2012 album “Glad Rag Doll.” Krall has a relaxed elegance on stage, as she frequently flips her thick blonde hair out of her eyes as she’s playing.
Krall performed three songs that were connected by a theme of weather, due to the rainy day that she spent in the Twin Cities on Thursday, her day off before the concert. “Just Like a Butterfly That’s Caught in the Rain” and “Let It Rain” were two more superb songs from “Glad Rag Doll.” In the middle of those she played “On the Sunny Side of the Street.” 

As in Krall’s 2013 concert, the Tom Waits song “Temptation” was a showcase for the whole band, with long solos by everyone. Krall started playing the song on an electric piano, before switching to her grand piano. She also played a little of “Bohemian Rhapsody” at one point during her solo. Stuart Duncan played his violin like a mandolin during part of his solo, as he and Anthony Wilson traded licks. Duncan and Wilson’s interplay on the violin and guitar gave the band a 1930’s sound, reminiscent of the gypsy jazz of Stephane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt, and that gave me the idea that Krall should make an album with her current band of songs associated with Reinhardt. 

After “Temptation,” the rest of the band left the stage and Krall performed a few songs solo, which I thought was a highlight of the evening. When the band returned to the stage, Krall played the first song from her latest album, 2015’s “Wallflower,” which focuses on pop songs from the 1960’s and 1970’s. She sang a nice version of the Mamas and the Papas’ hit “California Dreamin,’” recast to take advantage of her jazzy voice. While Krall sang several songs from the 1970’s throughout the rest of the concert, she only performed one more song from “Wallflower,” the title tune, an obscure 1971 Bob Dylan song. Krall also sang a lovely version of Dylan’s “Simple Twist of Fate,” which she recorded for a 2012 charity album. She also scored with her cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Amelia,” as Krall’s husky alto is the opposite of Mitchell’s high soprano. Krall should really record another album of songs from the 1970’s, this time with her small group, as opposed to the more orchestrated sound of the “Wallflower” album. Krall is such a strong piano player, and I think it’s a shame she only played piano on three songs on the “Wallflower” album. To close the concert, Krall sang a heartfelt version of her husband’s aching song “Almost Blue,” and a rousing version of the Band’s “Ophelia.” Last night was an excellent show, and more proof that Diana Krall is one of the most talented jazz performers around.

Set list:

We Just Couldn’t Say Goodbye
There Ain’t No Sweet Man that’s Worth the Salt of My Tears
Just Like a Butterfly That’s Caught in the Rain
On the Sunny Side of the Street
Let it Rain
Let’s Face the Music and Dance-solo
I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter-solo
California Dreamin’
A Simple Twist of Fate (Bob Dylan)
Amelia (Joni Mitchell)
Just You, Just Me
Indeed I Do

Wallflower (Bob Dylan)
(Looking For) The Heart of Saturday Night (Tom Waits)
Almost Blue (Elvis Costello)
Ophelia (The Band)

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