Under hazy golden spotlights, amid flickering faux vintage radios, and with projected film clips behind them, Diana Krall and band performed for nearly two hours at University at Buffalo Center for the Arts. The show, a rescheduled one due to a previous wintry cancellation, happened Tuesday night before an adoring, mature audience.
“How you doin’?” Krall asked, meandering onstage two bars into her five bandmates’ opening of “We Just Couldn’t Say Goodbye,” a playful 1930s love ballad recorded by American jazz chanteuse Annette Hanshaw – and later covered by Frank Sinatra. The singer/pianist, looking sleek in black leather pants and boots, black tuxedo shirt, and red and black jacket (and her signature tousled blonde locks), playfully interjected “And then I wrote …” before she and band melted into “There Ain’t No Sweet Man That’s Worth the Salt of My Tears” from the 20s.
This tune, recorded by Bing Crosby, was featured on Krall’s 2012 release “Glad Rag Doll.” “Wallflower,” her twelfth studio release that she is now touring, hit the airwaves a mere month ago: it’s a compilation of tunes spanning the 20s through today. Throughout her career, Krall has paid homage to those who have influenced her as both a pianist and vocalist, her recordings and shows maintaining a lovely intimacy creating an arc connecting the work of various decades.
The band, proudly introduced five times during the show by their leader, individually layered beautiful parts while melding into one resonating unit. Stuart Duncan, who does triple duty as slide guitarist/fiddler/ukulele player, solid guitarist Anthony Wilson, stand-up bassist Dennis Crouch, keyboard/accordion player Patrick Warren, and poetical drummer Karriem Riggins are fab. Add the effortlessly singing contralto Krall, whose key-work artistry ranges from classical infusions to playful honkytonk banging, and masterful takes of everything on the set list ensues.
After a jubilant “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” another ‘30s classic introduced as a “song about sweet sunshine,” Krall thanked the audience for being there. During the set she praised the city and her hosts: “We’ve had a great time here. Woo hoo! All the great restaurants!”
Riffing throughout the set about weather, seasons, love and marriage, Krall introduced “You Know I Know Ev’rything’s Made for Love” as a song “written about this area (Niagara Falls is mentioned in the song’s refrain), a long time ago, originally recorded just on a ukulele, and we just happen to have the world’s best ukulele player.”
She described how the song would possibly influence countless audience members to purchase, and learn to play, the instrument. Others, she proclaimed, could play in bathtubs filled with gin – “and have a dirty martini.” It was a rather complicated, silly story, Krall clearly enjoying herself.
Set high points were her rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Wallflower” and Tom Waits’ “Temptation.” The latter, with Krall moving between grand piano and small keyboard, is lusher than the original with carnal drums holding together near-chaos.