Monday night's Rickie Lee Jones concert at St. Paul's venerable Fitzgerald Theatre was a rare experience that Misplaced was pleased to be a part of.
With almost no fanfare, the house lights dimmed, Jones walked onstage, waved at the crowd, sat down at the drums (yes, drums) and launched into Traffic’s “Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys” to open the show, quipping after the song: "You didn't know I could play the drums, did you? Neither did I..."
The grind of a U.S. and European tour that began in October of 2009 and will not end until a final U.S. performance in Chicago in late March was evident when the 54 year-old Jones anounced “I’m off tonight,” several songs into her set. “So we’re going to explore the off-ness of Rickie.”
At one point, she sat with her electric guitar and declared that she was too “wiped out” to put the strap over her shoulder so she simply propped it on her lap and went about her business.
Ms. Jones on an off-night is still worlds better than most singer-songwriters when they’re hitting on all cylinders. Experiencing her two-hour performance in the intimacy of the Fitzgerald Theatre was not unlike witnessing a rehearsal before a tour, or being a fly on the wall at an impromptu jam session with the members of her band. It was a performance generous not only in length, but in content as well.
Early in the set she’d call out directions to her two sidemen, veteran bassist Joey Maramba (utilizing a violin bow on his electric bass on several occasions) and drummer/keyboardist/guitarist Lionel Cole, (the son of jazz vocalist Freddy Cole, and the nephew of the one and only Nat "King" Cole) arranging tunes on the fly.
Referring to her set as “a work in progress,” she even apologized to her players for doing a few songs they didn’t know. Witnessing what can only be described as an organic music-making process was a pleasure to witness, and made amusing by the fact that on several occasions, Cole had to scramble from his drum kit on the far left of the stage to his keyboard or guitar on the far right as Jones deviated from any semblence of a prepared setlist.
Because she felt she was off, Jones often turned to old material familiar to her fans, offering such early career faves as “We Belong Together,” “The Last Chance Texaco,” “Weasel and the White Boys Cool” and even a new arrangement of her best-known hit “Chuck E’s in Love”.
Jones of course offered selections from 2009's “Balm in Gilead,” including "Bonfires", and "The Gospel of Carlos, Norman, and Smith".
Jones finally announced that she was done for the night, and left the stage. The house lights immediately went to full brightness, indicating that there was no planned encore, and in true Minnesotan form, approximately 1/3 of the audience immediately left. I mentioned to my companion Tara that from my experience working concerts that it was unlikely that she would return to the stage, but the 2/3 of the audience that remained rallied around a lone woman at the front of the house who loudly demanded "C'mon! Just one more song!!!"
Jones was so moved by the insistent cheering that she returned to the stage alone for an unplanned encore, a solo acoustic version of “Danny’s All-Star Joint” which Misplaced surreptitiously recorded at great risk to his personal safety with a cell phone video camera and shares with you here:
For the one-third of you that left as soon as the lights came on, all I have to say is: Idiots.
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See you tomorrow.