Saturday Night: Norah Jones at Bayou Music Center
"Miriam/ That's such a pretty name/ I'm gonna say it when/ I make you cry."
Despite its name, Norah Jones' newest album, Little Broken Hearts, is a mild departure from her melancholy debut, Come Away With Me. That's the album whose single, "Don't Know Why," catapulted her into the hearts of hopeless romantics everywhere and won her a mess of Grammy Awards in 2003. Even the new album cover shows her in a different light, with a choppy bob's defiance to her first album's cascading curls.
In the same vein, Jones' performance at Bayou Music Center Saturday night was a mild departure from her usually moody, piano-driven concerts. Not to say that the folk-pop singer abandoned acoustics completely, but she added an element only devoted fans know that she is capable of: A stand-up performance, with electric guitar and piano strum-tinkling that transformed her Saturday set from what we expected -- a night of sad-sack songs -- into a pretty upbeat evening of music and comedy, starting with Jones' opener, Richard Julian.
If Jones is acoustics personified, Julian is acoustics purified. Armed with only a piano, a guitar and a single spotlight shining into his face, Julian commanded audience attention with a folksy triangulation of minor chords, jokes and anecdotal songs, mostly about him and his wife.
"Not Leaving New Orleans" was a funny story about his and the missus' two-year stay in Houston's Southern neighbor, while "You're Only Gonna Die" was a morbid yet realistic reinterpretation of the "YOLO" phenomenon currently traveling around the Web.
"It's the feel-good movie of the year," he said of the song, "and it's in a minor key, so I know you're going to love it."
"This song is dedicated to the wonderful people I met at the UPS office today," said Julian of "End of the Line," a non-rhyming piece that was more talk than anything else.
After an opening reprise of another song from her debut, "Cold, Cold Heart," Jones spent a good portion of the concert promoting Little Broken Hearts, a much mouthier effort than her previous collections. As for decoration, the stage was festooned with drop-down origami birds, which we admit was a bit confusing, seeing as how the album's theme revolves around hearts, but as the new and improved Jones evolves, so does her taste for experimentation.