Rickie Lee Jones & Madeleine Peyroux at Place des Arts
Montreal was the first stop on the North American tour of two incredible artists – Rickie Lee Jones, a legend in her own time and Madeleine Peyroux, surely a legend in the making. On Wednesday March 1st at the Theatre Maisonneuve in Place des Arts, fans and admirers were treated to an intimate evening of soulful music that had everyone feeling it. It might not have been an Osheaga type crowd, as the audience was clearly an older and more ‘sophisticated’ group. There was no dancing in the aisles, but many grooved in their seats, some with their eyes closed in moments, soaking in the sounds.
Our seats, seven rows in front of center stage, offered us the opportunity to witness the two gifted women up close, with Rickie leading off the first part of show. The lights dimmed at 8:06 pm as she took to the stage with her musicians, Mike Dylan on percussion and Cliff Hines on guitar (both now also living in New Orleans) – two very talented artists clearly in sync with the lady, who is not one to follow any preset notions and chooses to go with her instincts and emotions of the moment. Being the first stop of the tour, there were a few technical kinks to work out in the beginning, but that was quickly resolved by the team behind her and the ability of her musicians to flow with her.
Wearing sparkly earrings and a long, black velvet dress with short sleeves showing a tattoo on her right arm and a slit along her left leg exposing her red sneakers, she picked up her acoustic guitar and went right into ‘The Last Chance Texaco’ from her 1979 debut album. Her unique voice and eclectic phrasing immediately captivating the audience and setting the tone for the night, a night that seemed to connect metaphors with meanings tied to the political upheavals in the US with questions like ‘what now?’, and ‘where do we go from here?’. Rickie expressed her anger and concern about the troubling events in different ways throughout her show, perhaps even with her first song with lyrics like ‘But you ran out of gas, Down the road a piece, Then the battery went dead, And now the cable won’t reach’.
She followed with an array of songs from some of her 15 critically acclaimed albums, putting down her acoustic guitar at times to hit the keys of a black grand piano or strapping on her electric guitar during an encore. Songs like ‘We Belong Together’ from her 1981 Pirates album were standouts as well as ‘On Saturday Afternoons in 1963’ from her 1979 album, which resonated with melancholy, transporting us to another place in time – a nostalgic look back to our childhood, with its regrets and/or joys and what has transpired since then.
For ‘Smile’ (from the Charlie Chaplin 1936 soundtrack) she took to the mic, accompanied only by her guitarist for a very raw, moving performance that could easily have been interpreted as part of the thread of feelings of concern and messages of hope in the wake of current events.
‘Ugly Man’ from her 2003 album ‘The Evening of My Best day’, was clearly a strong statement in itself. She wrote the song about former President George W. Bush, who she felt was endangering free speech when he enacted the ‘Patriot Act’ after the September 11th attacks in 2001, giving the government expanded powers at the expense of civil liberties – and on this night she said although she had first written it for Bush, it easily applied to the antics of today. ‘He’ll look at you and tell you lies, He grew up to be like his father, Ugly inside…’
After close to 90 minutes of Rickie Lee Jones’ magic, she left the stage but soon returned for an encore, starting off with ‘Mink Coat At The Bus Stop’ on her electric guitar, with a message of love and understanding, the need to pay attention to all human beings and how we are all equal. It was followed by ‘Blinded by the Hunt’ from her 2015 album of originals ‘The Other Side of Desire’ – a rendition that particularly moved me. Back on acoustic guitar she performed the last song of her set,
‘Falling Up’ from her 2007 album ‘The Sermon on Exhibition Boulevard’, inspired from Lee Cantelon’s book ‘The Words’ – a modern rendering of the words of Christ, but this year she is calling it ‘Falling Apart’.
After a short intermission for the stage to be reset, Madeleine Peyroux took the stage with her musicians; the very talented and accomplished Jon Herington on guitar (the guitarist of choice with Steely Dan since 1999) and Barak Mori on stand-up bass who is originally from Tel Aviv, Israel and is now one of the New York jazz scene’s most sought after musicians. There was a wonderful communion between her and her musicians, who also sang back-up vocals, and together they produced a seamless execution of musical arrangements.
She was first joined by Rickie to sing their cover version of Dave Essex’s ‘Rock On’ – which they teamed up on recently to address the challenging issues in their country – and was released with a very powerful, politically charged video about women’s rights and the resistance to oppression. Its message of empowerment and hope was unmistakably part of the thread running through the show; ‘Where do we go from here? Which is the way that’s clear?’
Madeleine’s part of the show was a class act all the way. She is a highly esteemed performer who last year celebrated 20 years since her internationally acclaimed debut album ‘Dreamland’ was released in 1996, showcasing her genre-crossing approach to standards from the 1920s and ’30s. Over the course of her career she has gained the well-deserved respect of the many acclaimed musicians she has worked with, but especially from her dedicated fans.
With her dusky, seductively expressive voice and distinctive style blending pop, jazz, blues standards, she picked up her acoustic guitar, warming up an already receptive audience with a few of her standards. There was a connection and intimacy with her musicians that flowed out into the theatre. Madeleine’s approach was sensual, but also tied in with some subtle humor.
She performed several blues songs and also a few from her 2004 Careless Love album; ‘Don’t Wait Too Long’, Josephine Baker’s ‘J’ai Deux Amours’ and a beautiful rendition of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Dance Me to the End of Love’. One song from her 2009 Bare Bones album that particularly pulled me and my spouse in, who has been a longtime follower of Madeleine’s, was a mystical version of ‘Our Lady of Pigalle’.
At one point the trio performed the classic ‘Just A Gigolo’, coming together with humorous harmonies and lightening things up – but it was when subtle digs against Trump were thrown in that the not-so-subtle laughter from the audience kicked in. Her version of ‘Danny Boy’, of which she dedicated to the ‘departed Democratic mentors’, was the clearest message tying a knot in the thread of the evening.
All in all, it was a wonderful evening and I was especially appreciative of being witness to two very strong, empathic and inspiring women. Rock on!
For more information about the tour visit Rickie’s website at: http://rickieleejones.com/tour.html
You can also check out Rickie and Madeleine’s ‘Rock On’ video at: https://youtu.be/m4ru5I4-KkE