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Review: Diana Krall / Royal Albert Hall

UPDATE THIS IS A 2009 REVIEW. OUR OCTOBER 2012 REVIEW IS HERE .

Diana Krall was clearly in a mood to enjoy the first of her three evenings back in London, in what seemed like a near-capacity Royal Albert Hall. For such a huge venue, the atmosphere was surprisingly warm. Krall was, understandably, agreeably taken aback by the whoops of delight from the audience in response to completely inocuous lines such as “I’m from Canada” or “Andy Pandy says ‘time to go home.’ “

The band bounced onto the stage and pounced gleefully on what has become a Krall staple, Peggy Lee’s I Love Being Here with You. Fifth gear, crotchet 280, hold on tight…(the version above is tame by comparison) . Krall played a full part in it, but she was also duty-bound: she needed briefly to pose, to grin, help out the dozen or so queuing photographers to catch the shots they needed of a trademark bare shoulder or a resplendent and swirling blonde mane. But duties over, it was back to making good music with a great trio, and to having fun. She was punching bright accented sounds like a woodblock from the very top notes of the Steinway, closing the number with a muttered calming mantra “Ray Brown Ray Brown.”

Irving Berlin’s Cheek to Cheek had loads to enjoy. A reverie of introductory patter on the themes of Rosemary Clooney, rosaries and vodka (don’t ask!) ; a cleverly sleight-of-hand Fats Wallerish intro; a playful raised semitone repeat phrase bar; the best solo of the evening from Krall, leaning back into it, and just -that word again- enjoying it.

The thirteen numbers contrasted well. There were quotes being slipped in all over the place. References to Isn’t She Lovely fitted neatly into Let’s Fall in Love. The introduction to I don’t know enough about you meandered around childrens’ songs and boogie-woogie. Soft statements of All I want is a Room Somewhere from My Fair Lady inhabited the intro to I’ve grown accustomed to her face.” The most reflective moment came in a delightfully hushed Joni Mitchell A Case of You. Another excursion into pop ballad territory was a beautiful closing number….[UPDATE: a kind LondonJazz reader tells me it’s Departure Bay.]

Krall’s piano playing is mostly light touch, hardly any pedal except in a searching intro to Bacharach’s Walk On By. Regular collaborators Anthony Wilson, Kareem Riggins and Robert Hurst are all top players. Krall delivers as musician, as singer, as entertainer, as celeb. The tickets are not cheap, and at £10 for a programme, none of the sellers had a mob to deal with. It’s the second time I’ve heard Krall this year, and – let’s break the rules, I want use that same word a fourth and last time- I’ve enjoyed both.

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22 replies »

  1. The final song was Departure Bay which is in Nanaimo where she is from. Great concert especially from the loggia boxes and I agree with the review on “A Case of you” which was just beautiful.. Oh and my partner was one of the whooping Canadians making a cheer!

    SP

  2. I just wanted to know who that guy was who was making comments from the audience last night. Was it staged? Or was that guy just disturbed about Halloween?

    Anyways, it was a great night

  3. Yolanda Brown was excellent but Diana Krall's sound system was crap and had not been set up properly – her voice was sometimes phased and the piano sounded tinny (also a phase problem?) The heckler last night was complaining about the sound quality from what I could hear in the gods and rightly so.

  4. What are you talking about? The sound was perfect! The guy was either drunk or merely obnoxious. Either way, he ruined the experience for the rest of us. People really should keep their crass comments to themselves in a situation like that. Glad that Diana handled it with class.

  5. The rude shouting man was sat several rows behind me and also tried shouting at Yolanda Brown. Fortunately she ignored him. The RAH is a Victorian building and simply doesn't have the same kind of acoustic as you find in the Festival Hall or Barbican. This is not the artists' fault and surely there is a more appropriate (and polite!) way to raise a concern.

    That person was near the end on the back row – ie within a metre or so of a hovering member of staff. I still don't understand why he didn't just go and complain quietly to them so a message could be given to the sound techs to make adjustments. (I also don't understand why RAH staff didn't invite him to shut up or leave!)

    Overall, I really enjoyed yesterday's performance but would have enjoyed it more if the rude person behind me had remembered his manners.

  6. Anonymous
    If you thought the sound was perfect you must be tone deaf. The heckler was rude and thoughtless to others but if you let it ruin your evening mine was ruined by the sound.

  7. Great performance last night from great musicians, especially Diana.. as you would expect from her! Clever choice of songs and interaction – built up really well. Would certainly go and see her again next time. As for the the rude man in the audience who kept shouting/complaining about the sound and tried to spoil everyone else's evening.. well he's probably just some bitter, angry man who left his manners – and hearing aid – in the pub!

  8. I was there Friday night sitting 10 meters to the right of the stage and the sound was crap. The line array speakers facing us were off.

    After the second song I did shout (not rudely) that we could not hear the vocals or the piano well. She asked me whether I was there the night before (!). Presumably that was referring to the heckler the night before.

    After this dialogue, they did fix the vocals but the piano was still off. Only right hand mic from the piano was heard on our speakers.

    When one goes to such an event, you want to be immersed in its intimacy and without the sound that's not possible. This has nothing to do with the acoustics of the hall (which can be bad) but simply to do with sloppy sound engineering. Having paid over £120 for tickets, one expects the basic minimum standard.

    Thankfully the musicianship of Krall and her fellow musicians was brilliant.

  9. I just thought that man had something against Halloween. Everytime Diana mentioned the word, the man started going off.

  10. What a Wednesday night! You can loose all of your stress with Yolanda and Diana – a wonderful concert.

  11. I really enjoyed the Diana Krall gig last night (Friday 30th) but have to agree with some of the comments above about the sound quality.

    Agreed, I've never been to a concert of this kind in such a big venue before (and I agree that the RAH was hardly build for such an event) but there were issues of balance evident right from the outset. YolanDa Brown's bass player was inaudible when he first joined the drummer on the stage and it took a while for the bass to catch up to a dynamic level which complimented the drums & keys.

    When Diana performed I felt that the guitar, although brilliant, could be a bit overpowering. Even when the guitar solos it's nice to be able to hear what the piano is doing underneath – this was not always possible. Even when the balance was good, I was yearning for the whole mix to be that little bit louder.

    Even more interesting is that we had a heckler on the 30th as well! He shouted out that they couldn't hear the piano and vocals where they were sitting (circle on stage left). Diana dealt with it superbly, but noting that this little diversion really got the audience 'on side' and that I've read here that it happened the night before, I can only hope that these were outbursts of frustration rather than something that was organised.

    Despite all of this, I had a great time. I was a little concerned that since this was the 'Quiet Nights' tour that the music wouldn't often move beyond 2nd gear – I was very wrong!!! The opening tune, “I love being here with you' was hitting warp 10 and the closing number 'Cheek to Cheek' was certainly not far behind!

  12. Was truly amazing. The guy complaining about the sound was right, but that venue is not made for amplified sound. Miked pianos always sound like toys…. The sound guys improved it though. But sound issues made no difference to us loving the evening's music, the brilliant musicians, and Diana Krall's wonderful stage craft.

  13. The sound system WAS unbalanced at the start of the programme on 30th October and the piano initally sounded rather thin and idstant -even in the circle -until adjustments were made

    At £60 plus for tickets, I think the audience has a right to comment if the sound balance is poor rather than go away at the end feeling disappointed . It should have been sorted out in advance.
    Naturally it temporarily breaks the mood of the moment-but better to do so and then have everyone enjoying the remainder of the programme.

    That said the programme was a superb example of Krall at her best, although one or two numbers taken at breakneck pace lost something -it is not all about speed and technique. Witness the impact of some of the slower numbers such as I Get Along…

  14. Thank you for some really thoughtful comments. The sound at expensive gigs is definitely an issue I hear talked about a lot.

    I would hope that Krall is able to tour with an extra bandmember able to look after the sound at every gig….but I doubt it. Esbjorn Svensson always had Âke Linton.

    Anybody know?

    Wednesday I don't think there was a problem. Sounds like Thursday was different.

    I would urge British Krall fans to get to know wonderful singer-songwriter-pianist, the amazing Liane Carroll

  15. Sitting in the upper circle at £50 a seat on Friday evening, I felt short-changed by the poor sound quality, especially by Diana Krall's instrument the piano. How can this happen at a major performance by a world star? One ought to receive a partial refund–when Diana Krall jokingly asked whether she should pay us, I thought “yes” if this is the best her sound engineers can produce. I recall that when Marisa performed at the same venue a couple of years ago acoustics were excellent. M Pagel

  16. I was there on Thursday – the heckler was completely out of order I thought. It seemed to me that his first outburst was because Diana was taking a few minutes to chat with the audience about her twins and he clearly felt he had not paid good money to hear chatter. Very embarrassing. However, my own take was that I really just want more of Diana singing without lots of interludes of jazzy instrumental sections. She is amazing though and is on constantly at my home.

  17. Last Friday I went to London from Oviedo, Spain, to the concert. I realy like it. Perhaps the sound could be better, but not her.

  18. anon…I was at a summer prom concert for the first time hearing Miss Krall. A beautiful church hall at the top of Hampstead Garden Suburb. The acoustics there were fine for numerous other musicians and singers. Miss Krall really did not sound very good as much as i wwould like to say otherwise. It does seem odd to say the least that i now read these comments from your experience at RAH. Classical orchestras need very different accoustics to a small 4 or 5 piece band of Miss Krall ilk. The RAH cannot work for everyone, it depends on your luck of the draw seating position. With a full symphony orchestra it is ok, not as good as RFH.
    Miss Krall should only do small intimate venues, where she will thrive and please an entire audience, rather than a select few.

  19. The really wasn't great, but Diana Krall is world class, and her band – especially guitarist Anthony Wilson just incredible. Yolanda Brown – why are so many people hoodwinked? An appalling player, not even a talented amateur. She played Dm pentatonic on the first tune, and Am pentatonic on the next three. No hint at even going to chord 4 or 5. I wondered how on earth she would negotiate 'Round Midnight' when she announced it – they changed the sequence to a nice, comfortable turnaround! God knows what Krall's band thought of her. If she was 11 it would be okay(ish) but sax player Nigel Hitchcock was 11 when he became lead alto of the National Youth Jazz Orchestra playing Parker-esque solos. So, what are we doing over here in the UK apart from embarassing ourselves?

  20. We totally agree with the comments about the quality of the sound. The 'heckler's' comments could be heard better than Diana Krall- he wasn't critising her. From the upper circle – we could hear him trying to tell her that 'HE COULDN'T HEAR HER'. We couldn't either. The sound balance resulted in the acoustic guitar- good as it was overwhelmming her and her piano. What was doubtless a great performance was being let down by a poor sound check . Perhaps it was OK in the stalls but not 'up in the Gods' And yes Liane Carroll is well worth getting to know.

    Tony and Alison

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