Rickie Lee Jones is sometimes wrongly associated with a certain lazy, easy listening late 70s west coast sound – perhaps owing to the pristine nature of her first two immaculately produced albums, the eponymous first and the second, Pirates. But dig deeper into these albums and you find songs which are little worlds in themselves, the slow drift along a night road of Last Chance Texaco, the childhood memories of Saturday Afternoons in 1963 and so many others. Even the song which made her famous, Chuck E’s in Love, has a richness to the storytelling absent in many of its contemporaries on the atrophying LA scene of the time, a love of the details of dialogue and scene-setting. And in Night Train, she may have written one of the great songs of the late twentieth century, a portrait of a single mother threatened with losing her child to the social worker, set to the most beautiful, slight, almost not-there musical backing.
So here we were thirty years after the events at the Royal Festival Hall to see her perform the two first albums in their entirety, mixed in the running order as it turned out. And there she was – now into her fifties performing these songs of her youth and recalling troubled times, break-ups and the long strange road to recovery from heroin abuse. If this description makes you think the music itself was anything less than uplifting, then I’m sorry – that’s not at all what I mean. Backed by seven musicians of outstanding quality and sensitivity (showy solos were allowed sparingly only during those numbers which most approached the potentially indulgent jazz area), she gave a fantastic performance. Whether it really was some kind of final exorcism of bad times long ago (As she hinted by the end) or not, there was an intensity to this singing and dancing by this strange un-categorisable performer which was moving in the extreme. You simply don’t get this from the hundreds of hastily reformed acts from years gone by who are going through the motions. Every line was delivered like it was written yesterday and not all that time ago…By the end she was tearful in the face of the standing ovation something really special in the way of live music had just happened.
See www.rickieleejones.com too – there’s more than just the old songs going on for her