POSTED: 08/17/2015 02:51:24 AM PDT
Yet, Krall can usually be counted on to deliver on the live stage -- and that was certainly the case Sunday night at the Fox Theater in Oakland. The jazz queen, who is married to Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Elvis Costello, sounded equally strong on the microphone and keys during the two-hour set.
She was at her best when she stuck to jazz. Yet, even the "Wallflower" material sounded at least somewhat better live than it did in the studio.
The 50-year-old Canadian, who also performs Wednesday at the Mountain Winery in Saratoga, opened the show with a dynamic run through Harry M. Woods' "We Just Couldn't Say Goodbye," the Tin Pan Alley classic that also kicks off Krall's previous album, 2012's "Glad Rag Doll." She followed the album's track listing for two more numbers, thrilling the crowd with "There Ain't No Sweet Man That's Worth the Salt of My Tears" and then "Just Like a Butterfly That's Caught in the Rain."
Krall on this tour is leading an absolutely sensational sextet, consisting of bassist Dennis Crouch, drummer Karriem Riggins, guitarist Anthony Wilson, keyboardist Patrick Warren and fiddle player Stuart Duncan. Yes, that's right -- there is a fiddle player in the band. And Duncan, a Grammy-winning bluegrass musician, adds so much to the mix. His exchange with Wilson (one of Krall's longtime sidemen) absolutely sparkled on "On the Sunny Side of the Street," bringing new life to this 85-year-old composition.
Duncan also played a prime role in turning Tom Waits' "Temptation" -- which Krall recorded on 2004's "The Girl in the Other Room" -- into the song of the night. He started off playing his fiddle like a mandolin/ukulele, using his fingers to swiftly strum and pick out the notes, then moving to the bow as the music continued to swell. Wilson also added a fiery electric guitar solo to "Temptation," while Krall delivered her most urgent, passionate vocal and piano work of the evening. It was truly something to behold.
Krall didn't leave the jazzy side of the street until roughly half way through the show, when she finally broke into "Wallflower" and performed a forgettable version of the Dylan-penned title track. She followed with two more "Wallflower" offerings -- The Mamas and the Papas classic "California Dreamin'" and Jim Croce's "Operator (That's Not the Way It Feels)." The former benefitted from a slightly jazzier arrangement than the one found on the album, while the latter resembled what one might hear played during open mic night at your local coffeehouse.
It was hard to watch these virtuoso jazz players anchored to relatively commonplace pop arrangements. It's like watching NASCAR drivers cruise leisurely around in a small parking lot.
Thankfully, Krall soon led her band back to the jazz world, performing sensational versions of the standards "Just You, Just Me" and "'Deed I Do." She also paid tribute to the late great Oscar Peterson who would have turned 90 on Saturday.
She returned for a generous four-song encore, highlighted by her rambunctious cover of The Band's "Ophelia."