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Norah Jones and the "Cheesesteaks" play a flawless performance at Upper Darby's Tower Theater

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After almost a decade and a half of playing music in public, it's been quite interesting to now switch sides and review performances as a memberNorah Jones at the Tower Theater. Photo: Aileen Bannon of an audience. There are only a few artists I haven't had the pleasure of seeing live who are on my "Artists to See Bucket List." And after Saturday night, I proudly crossed Norah Jones off of that list.

Jones concluded the first leg of her North American Tour (the tour resumes April 18th in Seattle) by playing to a packed house at Upper Darby's Tower Theater. New material was predominantly showcased from her most recent release: the experimental and reverb-laden "The Fall."

In case you haven't heard the album yet, think of "The Fall" as Jones' Ghost in the Machine (the 1981 penultimate album of The Police). The change in Jones' musical direction is most likely a combination of her artistic maturation as well as her collaboration with new songwriters (including Ryan Adams) and new producer Jacquire King (Kings Of Leon).

Don't worry, Jones is trying some new things musically, but she hasn't completely drifted away from the style that has seen her sell close to 40 million albums worldwide.

The set opener, "Tell Yer Mama" could have passed for a song off of 2004's "Feels Like Home." Next came "Light as a Feather" (co-written with Adams), the catchy "Chasing Pirates" (The first single from "The Fall"), and  "Young Blood" (her latest video). "It's Gonna Be" was the grittiest song of the night, and probably (to date) the hardest rocking tune that can be found in Jones' catalog.

Click here for Aileen Bannon's photo gallery of the show

Ironically, Jones was alternating between her rhythm guitar and Wurlitzer electric piano for the first half of the evening (the first seven songs were from "The Fall") as opposed to her trademark piano, which she played about halfway through the set, just in time for the crowd pleasing "Sunrise." The Kinks  cover "Strangers," "Back to Manhattan," the light-hearted "Man of the Hour," and her breakout song "Don't Know Why" were among the night's crowd pleasers. Jones' outstanding vocal performance was also on full display for every one of the 22 songs she performed.

Jones' on-stage demeanor is very welcoming. Her general likability and naturally genuine disposition were reflected in the friendly banter she exchanged with the enthusiastic Tower crowd. She could be seen laughing and smiling throughout the night in reaction to some of the antics of her audience. Jones even had the crowd sing "Happy Birthday" to bass player Gus Seyffert!

Behind every successful artist is an excellent band, and Jones is no exception. What is even more impressive is that her band is ENTIRELY new. Putting a new band together is no small task. Seyffert, guitarist Smokey Hormel, keyboardist John Kirby, and drummer Greg Wieczorek hit every note of the evening with effortless precision while providing the laid-back feel of an intimate jazz club band. The real standout was the multitalented Sasha Dobson. In addition to being Jones' opening act for the tour, Dobson also served as her backup vocalist while playing guitar, banjo, and even additional percussion on "Pirates."

Towards the end of the evening, Jones remarked that the band is so new they didn't even have a name yet. And when a somewhat overzealous fan offered "The Cheesesteaks" as a possible suggestion, Jones and the band were quite amused, with Jones even mentioning how she was planning on indulging herself with one of Philly's signature sandwiches right after their encore, which included "How Many Times Have You Broken My Heart," (sung by Jones and her band over an old fashioned stand alone microphone) and "Come Away With Me." As far as their newly adopted moniker goes, something tells me this name will have been changed by the time Norah Jones comes to Philadelphia again.

And judging by the smiles on the faces of everyone leaving the Tower Theater last night, her return can't come soon enough.

SETLIST:

Tell Yer Mama

I Wouldn't Need You

Light as a Feather

Chasing Pirates

Young Blood

Even Though

It's Gonna Be

The Long Way Home

Broken

Waiting

Sunrise

You've Ruined Me

Sinkin' Soon

Back To Manhattan

Strangers (Kinks cover)

December

Man of the Hour

Don't Know Why

Stuck

Lonestar

ENCORE

How Many Times Have You Broken My Heart

Come Away With Me

Very special thanks to Rachel Spivak at Live Nation, JR Rich at Blue Note Records, and Kristen Kanopka (Tour Publicist-EMI Music).

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

Photos by Aileen Bannon