The cover shows a woman, center stage, spotlit, back to the camera, nude save a guitar. The inference is obvious: This, her first live album, is Gardot laid bare. But Gardot has ranked among the most nakedly honest and emotionally vulnerable of singers, ever since her stellar debut with Worrisome Heart in 2008. Live in Europe’s two discs—17 cuts culled from more than 300 concerts between 2012 and 2016—simply confirm that she exhibits the same breathtaking naturalism in front of thousands-strong audiences.
Rather than seek out the most perfect performances, Gardot assembled her choices based on the sage belief that “live there is only one element that counts: heart,” as she puts it in her liner notes. Several tracks focus on her deeply simpatico rapport with cellist Stephan Braun, including exquisite duets on “Deep Within the Corners of My Mind” and “Over the Rainbow,” as well as a “My One and Only Thrill” with Gardot at the piano and Chuck Staab on drums. There’s a rousing, crowd-thrilling “Lisboa” from, of course, Lisbon. “Baby I’m a Fool” is the only song presented twice, first from Vienna, mirroring the tremulous beauty of the original studio session, and second from London, intriguingly sprier and sunnier. But the standout tracks are an 11-minute “The Rain,” a resounding showcase for Gardot, Braun, Staab, bassist Aidan Carroll, and saxophonist Irwin Hall; and a colossal “March for Mingus” highlighting Hall and bassist Sam Minaie.