I had high hopes as I made my way through the winding streets of Vienne to see Norah Jones headline the town’s renowned annual jazz festival. Despite tickets priced at a punchy €45, the event was a sell-out, with touts lining the route to the venue: Europe’s largest Roman amphitheatre.
Those in the know had clearly arrived early to secure a seat, while the rest of the 3,000-strong crowd – my party included – clambered up the narrow steps to a high-altitude area or simply perched precariously on the crumbling walls. But as the sun set behind the stage and the more well-prepared members of the audience tucked into their cheese and wine picnics, it became clear that the real star of this show was the venue.
Norah’s innocuous strumming and dulcet tones were little more than background in the cavernous semi-circular amphitheatre. Even her most adoring fans must admit that she seemed somewhat dwarfed by the occasion – and her rudimentary French didn’t help engage the crowd.
Although her big hits – Come Away With Me and Don’t Know Why – were pleasingly familiar highlights, she was never going to emerge completely victorious. Norah lives to perform another day, but it was Vienne’s spectacular amphitheatre that held us enthralled.