One Thursday evening in April, an audience of oldies and luvvies packed Blackfriars’ Mermaid Theatre to be part of the recording of BBC Radio 2’s Friday Night With… Diana Krall. After the Radio 2 DJ Richard Allison had instructed the audience in “how to clap”, Ms Krall and her band arrived on stage rapturous applause, indicating that probably no practice had been necessary.
Already sat on stage were the members of the BBC Concert Orchestra, although the French horn players were seen (and heard) to make a hasty exit after playing a handful of notes in the second song – they were clearly not required for the rest of the night. In fact, the orchestra as a whole did not participate for most of the set, which seemed a waste of their collective talents, and gave an overall impression that Krall and her band would have been perfectly content if the orchestra had not been there.
Diana herself, slim with blonde wavy hair, stood out from the massed ranks of the black-clad orchestra and her male band members in a white jacket and tight blue jeans tucked into calf length boots, and generally looked like a member of Dixie Chicks.
But this was no line-dancing fest – Krall marked her card with a 10-minute opener of free jazz where the players of guitar, drums, double bass and piano were all given solos to demonstrate their mastery of the their instruments. Christian McBride on the double bass deserves a special mention, as his fingers flew and made the bass talk. And Krall herself is, of course, no mean pianist as well as vocalist.
The band then moved into a set of jazz songs by the likes of John Mendell and Cole Porter, inspired such greats as Nat King Cole and Sinatra. It seemed to take Krall some time to settle in vocally, complaining between songs of ear problems and of having talked too much – presumably a reference to her renowned dislike of interviews.
However, after a few songs she seemed to have warmed up such that the impressiveness of her voice, earlier referred to by Allison as one of the most beautiful in the world, really shone through. As she moved into the second half of the set, populated by songs by “a good friend of mine – Elvis Costello” and “my husband and I” (yep, same person), she was hitting her stride and developing a relationship with the audience too.
Temptation by Tom Waits was a highlight, the band clearly enjoying playing the funky drum and bass led song as a contrast to the earlier jazz numbers. Krall was trying out mixing up her old and new repertoires (“after I’ve seen my shrink I’ll be fine”) and several songs featured from her new album The Girl In The Other Room, but mixed with classics such as Cry Me A River and an unusual but excellent version of There May Be Trouble Ahead.
The final song, Love Me Like A Man, was a bluesy romp that had resulted in some visible audience toe-tapping and was a great way to finish the 90-minute set. Then, as if to demonstrate that she should not be stereotyped, Krall returned for a chilled back pseudo-Latino encore.
The audience were delighted and applauded heartily but Krall, apparently a reluctant star, did not milk the moment but instead made a swift exit after ensuring the orchestra, conductor and band members had each received their share of the glory.
Diana Krall is a talented lady, but perhaps one who needs to engage more with her audience if she hopes to see them coming back again and again.