Krall leaves them wanting more

The StarPhoenix: Bill Robertson: May 18th 2015. Photo by Boris Grdanoski

Diana Krall can play anything she wants, and the fact that she chose to play TCU Place in Saskatoon is this city’s very good fortune.

On Saturday evening of the May long weekend, Krall filled the hall, providing many with a cozy alternative to chilly camping.

With a five-man band arranged in a line across the stage — bass, drums, guitars, fiddle, and organ — Krall both defied and fulfilled expectations that she would lean heavily on her brand new album, Wallflower, a turn to pop classics after her many years of jazz devotion. The album was coming, but first, there was a Krall original called Just Couldn’t Say Goodbye, a bit of swinging ragtime that proved she’s not out of the jazz club yet. And what a jazz club.

Across the front of the stage were set old-fashioned, shell illumination lights, but the real mood was set by a casual array of candles on the floor. Suspended above the stage were glowing, old-time, circular microphones, and a screen backdrop kept up a rapid run of vintage visual images.

Krall calmed things down with the quiet Just Like a Butterfly Caught in the Rain then, claiming to like songs about weather, did the light swing of Sunny Side of the Street and the sweet and soft Let it Rain. With a big bash of the drums she and the band sashayed into Temptation, by Tom Waits, and this often gamey tune provided a real chance for the band members to show their stuff.

It’s a mark of Krall’s supreme ability as a player and bandleader that she can hand the stage over to her talented band members any time she wants, then, with a breath into the microphone or a flick of her blond hair, take that stage right back and settle into a masterful solo of her own.

And just to show how she could own that stage, the band melted into the wings and Krall did a few by herself, including Let’s Face the Music and Dance, East of the Sun, West of the Moon, and some marvelous jazz improvisation on Joni Mitchell’s A Case of You and Fats Waller’s I’m Gonna Sit Right Down (and Write Myself a Letter).

Back came the band to do some of the Wallflower album, starting with California Dreamin’, featuring varying tempos and Krall moving over to electric piano, then Jim Croce’s Operator and Elton John’s Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word.

It was back to her jazz roots with Nat King Cole’s Just You, Just Me, complete with galvanizing solos from guitarist Anthony Wilson and violinist Stuart Duncan, then Indeed I Do. By the time Krall did her own I’m a Little Mixed Up, the film on the backdrop behind her of a belly dancer and several wildly leering men was so distracting that it was hard to concentrate on the band. Diana Krall needs no juicing up from visuals. Just let us see and hear the woman play.

After a 90 minute set, a cheering standing ovation brought Krall and her band back for Bob Dylan’s country-folk Wallflower and a stirring rendition of the Band’s Ophelia, with more guitar, fiddle, and piano solos to feed the soul.

Diana Krall can take her piano, her voice, and now this crackerjack band through any music she wants. It was rock, pop, country, folk, and lots of jazz in Saskatoon Saturday night.