“What do you think she’ll be singing? Will it be jazz? Or country?” an over-refreshed Scottish fan was asking anyone who’d listen just before Rickie Lee Jones took the stage. I very much doubt it’s the latter, I told my visibly unimpressed chance acquaintance, just before he fell over the couple in the row in front effectively putting paid to any further discussion, musical or otherwise.

Of course, I should have just said: “She’s Rickie Lee Jones. She’s as cool as she is unpredictable. So she’ll do pretty much whatever she wants, and I really don’t have a clue except that it could well be hipper than hell.” Or something like that.

As it turns out, for her first Manchester show in gawd only knows how long, the erstwhile Duchess Of Coolsville opted for a decidedly crowd-friendly set heavily weighted towards two irrefutably classic albums, her self-titled debut and its follow-up Pirates, with a smattering of the slightly eccentric cover versions that make up her latest Kicks, including Bad Company’s Bad Company and Lee Hazlewood’s irritating Houston as well as, more predictably, Johnny Ray’s Cry and Julie London’s Cry Me A River.

Rickie Lee Jones. Credit: Nicole L GalinsonA few songs made the cut from the mid-period likes of Flying Horses and The Magazine, but the more high-risk high jinx of, for instance, Ghostyhead, were eschewed (sensibly enough) in my view. Instead she remained on relatively safe ground with a set that opened with Weasel and The White Boys Cool and Youngblood and included We Belong Together and Pirates (So Long Lonely Avenue) as well as calling in at The Last Chance Texaco and even revisiting Chuck E’s in Love.

Vocally and musically it was distinctly daring though, with guitarist Cliff Hines and percussionist Mike Dillon called upon to respond to frequent shifts in tone and tempo as Jones restlessly but happily followed where her mood led her.  

By Kevin Bourke

Main image of Rickie Lee Jones by Zack Smith