When Rickie Lee Jones toured her Pirates album in 1981, she comfortably filled Edinburgh’s 3,000 seat Playhouse Theatre.  Tonight, The Queen’s Hall, at less than one third of the size, is somewhat less than half full.  The lack of seat sales is undeniably disappointing but is perhaps unsurprising. Jones is an uncompromising musician who has followed her muse through a variety of musical journeys but has never gone out of her way to court the mainstream – her sole chart single hit, 1979’s Chuck E’s In Love, struck a chord with the record buying public without bending its LA boho jazz style to the fashions of the day.

This evening’s show is billed as  “An intimate evening with Rickie Lee Jones” and if the fans tonight are few in number, there is a buzz in the room that suggests a keen anticipation to share that intimacy. To the left of the stage is a collection of items that could almost, but not quite, be described as a drum kit.  To the right a piano and in the middle a guitar.  Rickie takes to the stage accompanied by Mike Dillon who settles in behind his array of instruments as Rickie straps on her guitar.  Opening with Weasel And The White Boys Cool from her debut album, Dillon deftly embellishes Jones’ guitar work and vocals.  The pair have been playing together for a while now but you get a real sense of creativity here as Dillon keeps one eye on Jones as he coaxes accompaniments from xylophone, cymbals and a variety of hand percussion.  The occasional stick may be dropped as Dillon flits between instruments, but the beat is never lost.

We are treated to a selection of songs from across her career – Jimmy Choos from her new album The Other Side Of Desire is a standout.  These are interspersed by slightly rambling between-song banter – Rickie Lee Jones’ laugh is something that you will never forget once you have heard it.  Jones removes her guitar for an extemporised version of Bye Bye Blackbird before moving to the piano.  Although she is a capable guitarist, Jones seems more comfortable at the piano, her playing is inventive and subtle and her vocals come across more clearly in this section of the show.  Highlights include the title track from Pirates, It Must Be Love from 1984’s album The Magazine and Infinity from the new album which features stunning interplay between Jones and and Dillon.  Jones brings the performance to a close with a version of Julie London’s Cry Me A River, which she mistakenly attributes to June Christie.  Surprisingly, despite sustained applause, there is no encore, no outing tonight for Chuck E’s In Love which has appeared elsewhere during the tour.

Tonight’s audience were promised an intimate evening with Rickie Lee Jones and that is exactly what we got.  Sometimes, smaller is better.

John Scott

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia

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