(Royal Albert Hall, 31st October 2012. Second night of two. Review by Sebastian Scotney)
Royal Albert Hall, dearest Royal Albert Hall. For us music-obsessed Londoners, you’ve been a big part of our lives forever. I first got to know you when I was twelve years old. Arthur Rubinstein. School uniform (me). It’s been a long time, huh. Since then I must have sat or stood just about everywhere: upstairs, downstairs, in boxes, up in the Choir, never the Royal Box but the one next to it… we’ve had some great times, haven’t we.
Last night, it was a generously-timed nearly two-hour single set from Diana Krall. You gave me some moments to treasure, music which touched my heart, set my brain into overdrive. You always do. I shall remember Joni Mitchell’s A Case of You for a long time. It was a song thoroughly lived in, from a ten year-old album (Live in Paris) . And how marvellous to hear Nat King Cole’s Straighten Up and Fly Right, the same only even more so, from that virtually twenty year-old debut album (Stepping Out). Krall was at an upright piano, alone, back-to-the audience, without the adornment or rather the distraction of silent movies.
But, Albert – first names seem right after all this time – there were moments I’d rather forget, too. The sound of those lower frequencies from where I was sitting in M Block. Can we talk about it please? Don’t get into a strop, we know each other too well for that. But what were you doing with the sound of bassist Dennis Crouch and drummer Jay Bellarose . It might have worked brilliantly on an Elvis Costello album in a Nashville studio, but it was coming out with the consistency of thick mud from where I was sitting. I guess the bass has a different function in the country music that Crouch emerges from, than in jazz. It’s an accompaniment, a shadow, a colour, rather than driving the harmonic rhythm. And Bellarose tends to in-fill the sound with both his arms barrel-full of percussion. But it was all so indistinct. And in some of those newer songs, the mushy sound seemed to reinforce their shortcomings. From where I sat, Here Lies Love just seemed disposable, insubstantial, aimless. I’d better listen to it again.
But what can’t be heard can’t really be reviewed. Al (“you can call me Al”? ), you weren’t really helping tonight. Best to forgive and forget. Till next time, eh.