Fans were treated to a night of spectacular spookiness Friday night when Norah Jones made her wistful return to Iowa.
The performance, which took place in front of a packed Stephens Auditorium crowd in Ames, featured an array of everything one would expect to see from Jones: A maturated mixture of melodic jazz, country-western and rock 'n' roll songs; a transparent cleverness from a charismatic songwriter; a voice embracing enough to fill even the largest and most discontent concert halls.
That, plus a handful of chuckle-worthy nods to Hallows' Eve, is what Jones delivered. But ... what exactly were Iowans looking for when walking through the door of Stephens?
"She's on our bucket list of concerts we thought we'd never get to see," said Andria Nelson, 45, of Ankeny. "(She's got) raw talent. It's her voice, her playing."
Nelson came to the show with her daughter, Tiffany, who's 18. The first record Tiffany ever purchased was one of Jones', when she was 11.
It's that type of everlasting connection that fuels fans of any artist to watch a performance — and it was on display both before and during the show.
"You sound beautiful, Norah," one fan shouted down to the stage during her piano-led rendition of popular single "Don't Know Why." Jones energetically lipped "thank you" back between lines of the song. This track proved to be the most engrossing of the evening. The way Jones delivered it — just her voice, the piano and the spotlight — left the room enamored.
Fans attending the show were diverse. There were groups who looked to be in the age range of Tiffany, and then there were couple like Bruce Nuzum, 69, of Newton and his wife Shirley, 68.
"We're just looking for an enjoyable evening and to see what she's like in person" Bruce said.
For Marc Elcock, 41, of Indianola the Jones' music is something he's had in his life for as long as he remembers. He came with his wife, Tara, who brought the tickets as a birthday present for her husband. The show came with an endorsement from Tara's parents.
"We sent my parents to a (Norah Jones) concert several years ago and they thought it was one of the best ones they've been to," Tara said.
The show was unique because of Jones' canny ability to mix in Halloween references throughout the show. She even performed "My Dear Country," a Halloween-infused song about election season she hinted at performing in the Register's interview with her.
The Halloween references didn't begin or end with that song; earlier in the set Jones informed the crowd she and her band took part in a pumpkin carving contest that evening. The pumpkins, which donned names such as "Donald Trumpkin" and "Kermit the Pumpkin" were playfully wheeled out on stage by a crew member dressed as Garth from Wayne's World.
"We're very excited to be here ... are you guys in your costumes out there?" she said to the crowd after delivering "What Am I To You?" the set's opening number. "I really wanted to, but I knew I'd be the only one."
Jones said she visited Random Goods, in downtown Ames, in search of appropriate holiday decor.
"That lady is cool," she said to a round of approving shouts from the onlookers.
Show opener Adriel Denae joined Jones for a cover of Neil Young's "Don't Be Denied." Denae delivered six triumphant songs prior to Jones taking the stage. Not unlike Jones, she has the unteachable skill of being able to capture the attention of the room with nothing but her voice and an instrument. Jones produced her forthcoming release, something fans have to look forward to from this head-turning up-and-coming artist.
The show wasn't without its brief bumps. During "Chasing Pirates," the sixth song of Jones' set, she asked a member of the crowd to turn his or her camera flash off — a reasonable request that she clarified after the end of the number.
"Let's have a moment where we're all in the moment," she said after the track.
The show continued as Jones moved from piano to keyboard to acoustic guitar to electronic guitar, digging deep into her catalog. She glided through numbers like "Little Broken Hearts," "Come Away With Me" and "Painter Song," as well as a Puss N Boots song "Don't Know What It Means."
Over an hour-and-a-half and 21 songs later, show-goes filed out of Stephens, leaving full of both Jones' powerful live performance and her and her band's unwavering love for Halloween. Not the 'traditional' way to spent Beggars' Night in central Iowa, but not a bad way to spend the night at all.