Here's a show that got added to the calendar late and it's coming up fast: the incomparable Rickie Lee Jones, Oct. 19 at the Carrboro ArtsCenter. I wouldn't sleep on getting tickets because this should be a pretty quick sellout, and Jones' last performance at the ArtsCenter was great -- see below for the review. This is a rare chance to see someone of her stature in a very intimate space.
Jones casts her spell
By David Menconi, News & Observer
Jan. 31, 2004
CARRBORO -- It was fitting that Rickie Lee Jones walked onstage at the ArtsCenter on Thursday night as a Bob Dylan song played over the loudspeakers. Where Jones used to draw comparisons to Joni Mitchell and Tom Waits, at age 49 she seems more like Dylan -- right down to the protest songs on her latest album, and the fact that she declined to play her biggest hit single, 1979's "Chuck E.'s in Love."
Jones' impressionistic, nonlinear lyrics are more like evocative tone poems than conventional songs. Figuring out what her songs are supposed to mean can be maddening, but that's beside the point. Few performers push mood buttons as skillfully as Jones, and she makes the most of an unconventional voice that always sounds as if she has a cold.
Thursday night, the cascading jazz chords of "It Takes You There" felt like lying outside on a summer afternoon watching clouds go by. The smooth-gliding "Bitchenostrophy" transported the audience to a cafe in a European city. And as for "Little Yellow Town," a strange and atmospheric song from Jones' 1997 electronic "Ghostyhead" album, even she seemed at a loss as to how to describe it.
"This is about ..." Jones began, then stopped herself, shook her head and just started playing. About six trance-inducing minutes later, the song ended with a drawn breath.
Other interludes were considerably less mysterious, most notably the three overtly political songs that make up the heart of Jones' current album, "The Evening of My Best Day" (V2 Records). "Ugly Man" excoriated President George W. Bush in no uncertain terms ("He'll look at you and tell you lies/He grew up to be like his father"). "Little Mysteries" spun conspiracy theories about the 2000 presidential election. And "Tell Somebody (Repeal the Patriot Act)" was a house-shaking, gospel-style throwdown, on which Jones testified about life in the national security state.
"Where are the voices of dissent?" she asked. "Where are the voices of criticism?"
The sold-out house roared its approval, and a voice in the crowd hollered afterward, "Rickie Lee for president!"
Jones brought along a six-piece band that was sharp, precise and versatile, with a three-piece horn section that repeatedly switched instruments between various keyboards, percussion devices, accordions, horns and guitars. Jones played guitar most of the show except for the first song, which she sang with her hands in her pockets.
She also sat a spell at the keyboard for the beginning of the three-song encore, and flat broke every heart in the room with "Pirates (So Long Lonely Avenue)." Two songs later, as her band vamped, she smiled at the crowd and left the stage, as inscrutable as ever.