An evening in Coolsville

We spent yesterday evening in Coolsville, with the Duchess herself. She sang her way through the soundtrack to my student days in the early 1980s; listening to classic Rickie Lee Jones live was another awesome, red box experience.

The Duchess of Coolsville, 57, skipped on to the Royal Festival Hall’s stage in trademark brown beret and half an hour late for her Pirates concert. According to the Southbank Centre preview, the queen of pop/jazz/country/soul/R&B/blues/you-name-it, with a career spanning 30 years, maintains an unwavering cool despite a historically difficult personal life which has seen her battle and overcome broken hearts and drug addiction. Her concert featured tracks from her two most successful LPs, Rickie Lee Jones and Pirates, in her only stop in the UK before heading to Paris and Bilbao to round off her short European tour.

She opened with Danny’s All Star Joint to thunderous applause, and went on to dance with her beret through After Hours (12 bars past midnight). Spent, she abandoned her beret along with her water bottle, on the piano.

Rickie Lee Jones is not as tall as I would have imagined. I loved watching her bob and weave around the microphone with, what looked to me like awe and fear, and always, always needing the sound to be perfect.

The audience went crazy to hear the opening bars of Chuck E’s in Love, which the Duchess delivered to perfection before moving into a self-conscious, exquisitely delicate and vulnerable, arms-folded version of Company. A beautiful Easy Money prefaced her move to the piano, where she played and sang for the next hour. Living it Up was followed by a call from Rickie to ‘play some more happy songs’, as she moved on to the hauntingly beautiful clarinet-soloed Skeletons.

Ms Jones’ band is filled with outstanding musicians: a crazy talented lead guitarist, a Duke of Coolsville on bass, a keyboard (piano and Hammond organ) magician, an astounding drummer and ridiculously brilliant three-piece horn section of saxophone/clarinet, trumpet and trombone. Each artist had their moment in the spotlight to share their beautiful talent.

After We Belong Together, Rickie Lee apologised for being late.

“Did you forgive me yet for coming on late? I don’t have any reason, except I wasn’t ready. In so many ways,” she said ironically before moving on to Lucky Guy, filled with pretty, pretty Hammond organ solos. On Saturday Afternoons in 1963 was followed by an emotional, tear-filled outpouring of Coolsville.

The Duchess followed her heart rather than the setlist, which kept the band watching her closely and the setlist frequently being replaced.

She moved on to Pirates and Traces of the Western Slopes before a funky Woody and Dutch on the Slow Train to Peking. Guitar in hand, Ms Jones talked of her first trip to London in 1979 and how everything about the city ‘creeped her out’ as she walked through the ‘emotional chasm of heroine withdrawal. Everything was different, from having only one television channel (‘that played dogs chasing sheep’), to the light switches, to waking up at 3am and everyone was asleep’.

As an apology for that story, she sang a bonus number, a pure-Rickie Lee version of On the Street Where You Live. The Weasel and the White Boy’s Cool rocked the most insane lead guitar solo before Night Train, Young Blood, Last Chance Texaco and After Hours.

Ms Jones wept as she talked of the ‘supreme peace that found me, unexpectedly, on this Pirates tour’. She thought it would be a nightmare, reliving the difficult times through Pirates, but found that she can now ‘go home and sleep at night’.

With emotion and gratitude, she sang the closing number The Returns, leaving us all with a hope that the Duchess of Coolsville will be back. Two hours of pure Rickie Lee Jones magic. Catharsis rocks.

Sunshine signing off for today!

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28 thoughts on “An evening in Coolsville

  1. Sunshine, what a lovely concert. These red box events sound like great events. Keep the enjoyment flowing through the holiday season.

  2. Happy to see a message in my inbox alerting me to another story from Sunshine. I love that you go to so many concerts and then share them all with us. The expense of concerts these days keeps us from going to them as often as we would like, so it’s nice living vicariously through you and all of your adventures. I’m excited because I just bought tickets to see the Brian Setzer Orchestra (former front man for the Stray Cats) on December 23rd. Can’t wait! I saw a billboard announcing his show and got very excited. Katie claims I almost ran wrecked the car and ran a red light, but she over exaggerates. A trip to the coast, a concert and camping in a yurt
    is how we are going to spend our Christmas holiday! And just think, Sunshine, last year at Christmas I was sitting at the edge of the polluted Willamette River ready to drive my car in!!!

    1. Ah, how lovely to hear from you, patti. Thank you for sharing these exciting times with me – means a lot! And I remember when you were in such a dark place … I’m so thrilled things are looking so different for you this year. Hope you have a fabulous time at the concert and camping – happy holidays and much much happiness to you, my friend xx

    1. Thanks so much, Paul – it was an incredibly beautiful and special concert. I am so thrilled you found my blog and that you loved the concert as much as we did! It was a privilege indeed, I agree with you.

  3. I was at the concert with my wife. We used to listen to Rickie’s music when we were courting, 30 years ago, and have loved it ever since. 3rd time we’ve seen her play, but never in such a big venue with such a big back-up band and such a big audience. Traces of the Western Slopes, Skeletons and the Returns, along with many others, gave us moments of pure magic. What a great evening and where did those 30 years go?

    1. Hi Rupert, so lovely that you commented on this amazing concert. I know what you mean – there were so many lyrics and songs that took me back to Cape Town (where I studied) and to specific times and places. Where does the time go, indeed? In so many ways, 30 years ago feels like last week! So glad you enjoyed the concert as much as we did.

  4. So happy to hear you have another ticket in your red box. I was delighted to see and email in my inbox from you. How I miss your regular posts. Hope is all well with you in your new job. Blessed Holidays to you and yours, Jeanne

    1. Thank you, lovely Jeanne. I miss writing regular posts … ahh … and the regular interaction with all my bloggin buddies! Absolutely loving the job, though. Happy and blessed holidays to you all xx

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