Thursday 1 November 2012

Diana Krall at the Royal Albert Hall

I last saw Diana Krall play in 2001 at London's South Bank Centre. She was tall, elegant, funny and played a range of jazz standards to an enthusiastic audience. I saw her again last night at the Royal Albert Hall, playing to a packed house and playing a different kind of standard.

It was of course Hallowe'en and Ms Krall, resplendent in a long, asymmetrical black jacket, talked about having enjoyed trick or treating earlier in the day with her husband - Elvis Costello and their two children. Her style is relaxed and she spoke about Hallowe'en experiences when growing up in Canada where she would be invited in to people's houses to play the piano. As she joked, she now does that for money and although this was no cheap ticket, it was certainly worth it.

She featured several tracks from her recently released album Glad Rag Doll, co produced with T-Bone Burnett which includes a number of tracks in the 1920's jazz style including some stonking renditions of Here Lies Love (great for Hallowe'en!), Lonely Avenue (with the continuous video showing in the background featuring footage from Metropolis the Fritz Lang classic) and the Latin inflected Boulevard of Broken Hearts. The video backdrop was interesting - I enjoyed the vintage animations, the Carol Lombard footage (Diana confessed to having been in awe of Lombard as she grew up - not to mention being a big fan of the Ziegfeld girls too!) - but some of it seemed a little out of place - the Stingray clips for example.

The performance included some old favourites too - a great rendition of Fats Waller's Sunny Side of the Street, Straighten Up and Fly Right and a short tinkling instrumental version of Mud Mud Glorious Mud! There were several references to Canada throughout the performance including a lengthy version of A Case of You which was well received. The stage was set out with a number of mementoes of Diana Krall's childhood - a piano she said she had played when growing up, her father's gramophone, a pile of 78 records and some other nice touches including a large crescent moon!

The new album is a departure from what has gone before. It is definitely not in the style of the earlier Cole Porter, Jerome Kern and other classic song writer influenced tracks. It includes Tom Wait songs. The live versions of some of the tracks were almost threatening with the dark mood of the lyric and the robust approach of her excellent musicians. It has had mixed reviews. I must confess the songs would not normally have been my own choice for her to play - but I did enjoy this new Ms. Krall and admire her courage in trying something new.

She sang with a cold and was clearly in some discomfort but that did not prevent her returning to the stage for three extra numbers at the audience's insistence, cracking some funny jokes including a cute play on words  - boos (as in boo surprise), boos (as in we don't like this) and booze (as in a bottle)! The notorious Royal Albert Hall acoustic was a bit tricky at first too, but  together with the tight band, our heroine overcame this.

My favourite tracks had to be Lonely Avenue and Boulevard of Broken Hearts - heart stopping bashing of the piano in the former, enticing Latin influence in the latter. Come back soon Ms Krall - this was a real treat - and no tricks!

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