Diana Krall

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An embarrassment of riches, I thought, when trying to figure out what show to see Friday night. I could, literally, have my pick of what show to attend. There was the opening day of XPN festival at Wiggins Park, there was a hard core punk (you know to test my new found love of punk) thing going on at Johnny Brenda’s, something at MOCA, Wanda Jackson at Sellersville Theater, etc. Almost overwhelming, but choose I did.

Friday night was only the most perfect weather one could hope for in July. Summer evening, no humidity, bit of a breeze and not a rain cloud in sight. We all know how much I enjoy the Mann Music Center, so the weather in combination with Diana Krall, the Philadelphia Orchestra and bring your own picnic policy won over all the other options. And, boy did I chose well.

The Mann has a policy that when the orchestra plays, you can bring your own picnic. Pretty arbitrary, but a policy nonetheless. I love seeing the orchestra a couple times a year there, but for the past couple of years the season has been getting shorter and shorter. In 1995, I worked for a city councilwoman and we were given free tickets for the orchestra series, which played weekly for 9 weeks. That was awesome. I saw the orchestra a lot during the 90s. I guess since the Mann has increased their other concert offerings, they have decreased their orchestra offerings and you really have to plan an evening specifically for the orchestra.   I knew that Diana Krall was going to be there, but since Susan and I had seen her awhile back I was not compelled to see her again. However, I then read that her back-up band was the Philadelphia Orchestra. Let me repeat that so it resonates. The Philadelphia Orchestra was her back-up band. Back-up. Band. Philadelphia. Orchestra. I think you get the picture. Off we went.

Tons of tickets left so no trouble getting in, though I was looking for my friend Roddy who told me at the Robert Plant show that he would be “working” the parking lot all summer long. Guess it was his night off. We invited folks to join us and our friend Kristin, the rock star that she is, was driving back from upstate New York and said she would be there just in time. Serious effort, I mean I was coming from the city and was anxious about the drive. We settled in for the evening on that plush lawn with homemade coleslaw, babagounash, and salsa courtesy of Susan’s magic green garden thumb and culinary skills and Federal Donuts Fried Chicken, because it is exactly halfway between my office and our house.

Diana Krall has a new album, Wallflower, which includes covers of songs that she loves from her childhood. Basically, stuff I grew up on, like the Eagles, Bob Dylan, Jim Croce, Mamas and Papas, etc. And she did them justice. But I was surprised by her speaking voice. She has this low sultry, smoky voice that sounds like whiskey slowly being poured into a glass. Her songs were sung in that style, but her speaking voice was almost the opposite, higher and a little screechy. I do not remember that at all and Susan thought she may have been sick and then someone else mentioned that she may have had surgery for something recently. I guess she was saving her real voice for her songs and was not into straining it for chatting in between. It was just odd, especially after a recent discussion about vocal fry and uptalking (you can hear a great Fresh Air story on that very topic here). Additionally, I love her voice (the singing one), but I love her piano playing as well, which is sometimes hard to completely appreciate when you are listening to an album. Last time, she was rocking her piano, putting Jerry Lewis to shame. This time, it was way mellower and there were no piano rock and rolling I was expecting. I understand it was a different kind of show, but I missed that raucous playing. What I did love, and was absolutely moved by, was her most excellent version of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You,” because 1) It may be the greatest love sad song of all time; 2) Joni Mitchell is the bomb and 3) Diana Krall was born to sing it.

Though there were no Elvis Costello duets, at the end of the night, I was extremely pleased with my evening pick. I had a wonderful time in a great setting eating and drinking great food and wine and spending time with my love and friends. It does not get much better than that. A great evening to kick off the rest of the music weekend ahead.

By the way, we were asked not to take any photos. So, we only have this forbidden one taken by Susan of me in full Mann mode.


37 shows to go, 312 days left…