Soul Survivor

Rickie Lee Jones. At SOhO, Monday, December 18.

Reviewed by Brett Leigh Dicks

Rickie Lee Jones knows a thing or two about the road. For almost 30 years, the musical veteran has been soulfully touring life’s highways and byways and encapsulating it all in song. Sliding behind the SOhO piano on Monday night, the Dutchess of Coolsville caressed and perplexed her way through an enchanting offering that explored these experiences. Jones delivered scintillating renditions of songs that spanned her career, opening with “On Saturday Afternoons in 1963,” then moving to “Flying Cowboys,” “Living It Up,” and “Coolsville.” Oddly — and perhaps a testament to Jones’s versatility — a member of the audience eagerly requested the evening’s opening song not long after she actually performed it.

Soon after, Jones was joined onstage by her band and from that point forward, left the piano behind. As a result, the intimate smokiness of the performance was replaced by the driving dynamics of an ensemble. But such was the ease of her progression and Jones hardly skipped a beat. For, just as the hauntingly beautiful “Coolsville” had her passionately crying out from behind the keyboard, “Nobody Knows My Name” saw Jones center stage, hunched over the microphone, dispelling every trace of sentiment from the song.

As the evening progressed, Jones toured us through a selection of songs from her forthcoming album, The Sermon on Exposition Boulevard, a musical exploration of faith and redemption. Among the swirl of atmospheric guitars in “Where I Like It Best,” she threw forth both her arms as she pleaded its verses. “Falling Up” was a bristling pop gem, while the grungy guitars of “It Hurts” were all rock ’n’ roll. In “The Lamp of the Body,” vocals, guitars, and electronics were contorted into the musically surreal, but reality defiantly returned with “Last Chance Texaco.”

Within her classic road-weary tale, Jones presented a heart as sullied and stained as the floors of the facility in which she performed. But despite such tribulations, Jones has a heart and soul that clearly still roams free.

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