Not yet a household name, Rebecca Naomi Jones may still be familiar to New York theater-goers for her starring turn in Green Day’s musical American Idiot, Passing Strange and last summer’s gut-busting musical take on Shakespeare Love’s Labour’s Lost. She was invited to perform a set for Lincoln Center’s “American Songbook” series, an honorable and unique music series. Her’s was the second to last show — earlier in the year indie/rock artists like Beth Orton, Jason Isbell, Deer Tick and unique musical performers like Taylor Mac and Patina Miller had their own evenings.
Jones invited a lot of friends on stage to sing with her, including some of her fellow Idiots and a composer she has collaborated with, Justine Levine. With a trio of backing singers, Jones started off by tackling one of her father’s (Eddie Jones) compositions, the soulful, “Take Me as I Am” before moving into Steely Dan’s “Reelin in the Years”. As her set continued, she performed “Jóga” from Björk and followed it with Fiona Apple’s “Hot Knife”. Here I had a moment of deja vu because, although the song choices had been different, it was almost one year ago to the date that I saw Cristin Milioti, another (Once-?) Broadway-starlet in the same venue cover a couple songs by those same two female artists.
I had been surprised most when Bill Mayo of Black Taxi came on stage to do his band’s song “Vultures” with Jones but my favorite song her version of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game”, a desperate and dark song that her voice filled lushly. With a cover of Portishead that followed, Jones showed her musical inspirations come from every genre, but she didn’t really go punk during the night, avoiding any Green Day songs (so no “21 Guns” unfortunately). The performance was still an engaging portrait at an up-and-coming artist, and that suited everyone well. It’s the selling point of ‘American Songbook’ after all.
Take Me as I Am (Eddie Jones)
Reelin’ In the Years (Donald Fagen and Walter Becker)
Willow Cabin (Love Is Loud) (Justin Levine)
Hot Knife (Fiona Apple)
Shipwreck (Justin Levine)
Vultures (Black Taxi)
Fast As You Can / Psycho Killer (Fiona Apple / David Byrne, Tina Weymouth, Chris Frantz)
Wicked Game / Glory Box (Chris Isaak / Beth Gibbons, Isaac Hayes, Geoff Barrow, Adrian Utley)
So Comes Love (Shaina Taub)
It’s Over (Eddie Jones)
I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free (Music by Billy Taylor, lyrics by Dick Dallas)