Live Review: Diana Krall at the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, Wilkes-Barre, PA

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Among the decorations on stage for Diana Krall at the Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, on Saturday night were several replicas of vintage radios. Considering the songs that comprise Krall’s latest album Wallflower, several of which were played during the show, some AM transistor radios should have been included as well. After all, what better way is there to account for late 60’s, early 70’s vintage hits like “California Dreamin’”, “Desperado”, and “Operator?”

Not that Krall gave short shrift to the Great American Songbook that she has mined throughout her career for consistently excellent results. As a matter of fact, she didn’t dip into Wallflower until the second half of the show. She and her crack six-piece band started off the night with a set of songs that mostly dated back to the first half of the twentieth century, churning out playful readings of evergreens like “We Just Couldn’t Say Goodbye” and “On The Sunny Side Of The Street” while silent films were projected behind them to play up the throwback effect.

The grayer areas inhabited by rock-era songwriters started to receive their due during a blistering take on Tom Waits’ “Temptation,” which included long, on-point solos by guitarist Anthony Wilson, fiddler Stuart Duncan, drummer Karriem Riggins, and, of course, Krall, whose ability to take piano improvisations down paths both merry and moving was on full display. She then gave the band five for a brief solo set, which was highlighted by some funny interplay with a conversational audience member and her signature take on Joni Mitchell’s “A Case Of You.”

While she battled with her husky vocals at times throughout the night, clearing her throat and drinking water often, Krall rallied when the band returned and started taking on the songs from Wallflower. Not all of the songs on the album were hits, and on this night her performances of obscurities by Paul McCartney (“Let Me Take You Home Tonight”) and Bob Dylan (“Wallflower”) made you believe that their authors had written them solely for her.

After an energetic tumble through “I’m A Little Mixed Up” closed out the main set, Krall and company returned for a winning three-song encore. “Desperado” was fine, but “I’m Not In Love” was even better, as the clever arrangement cut through the haze of 10CC’s original to find the torch song within. The night ended with a ripsnorting version of The Band’s “Ophelia”, Krall’s left-of-center phrasing doing Levon Helm justice.

Saturday night’s performance was one of several that Krall rescheduled from last fall when she was laid up with pneumonia. The Wilkes-Barre crown made it known again and again how happy they were she finally made it. With her standout new album and inspired live shows like this one, Diana Krall is proving that there isn’t a songbook you can name that she can’t reinvent in magical, marvelous ways.