When Canadian born singer k. d. lang took the stage at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center last Tuesday night, the crowd lept to its feet, whooping, hollering, whistling and generally making a huge fuss.
The warm welcome seemed to surprise the four-time Grammy winner, who kept mouthing “Oh, my God,” and then did something totally unexpected of a veteran performer. She blushed.
“Ya’ll brought it tonight,” she said. “And for the next two hours, we’re going to bring it to you.”
Lang is touring with a five-piece band, called the Siss Boom Bang, behind her new CD, “Sing It Loud,” which was released on the Nonesuch label in April. She co-wrote eight of the 11 tunes on the new record and performed several for the diverse crowd.
It’s rare for an recording artist to maintain the same quality on stage that they have in a live performance. In the recording studio, Pro Tools smooths out the rough edges and resolves pitch problems.
Lang doesn’t have to give a second thought to those issues, however. Somewhere in the recesses of her vocal chords, pitch, control and musicality merge. When she opens her mouth, perfection is what emerges. And she makes it look easy.
She started the show with “I Confess,” the first cut on the new CD. It’s a throwback to the 1992 Grammy-award winning CD sound of “Ingenue.” She followed up with “Summerfling,” from her 2000 CD “Invincible Summer,” flirting with the people on the front rows just a bit.
“Water’s Edge,” a lovely new love song, led into “Miss Chatelaine,” where lang totally camped it up, striking a perfect “pretty feet” pageant pose, eliciting whoops and cat calls that only got louder as she introduced a new tune, “Sing It Loud,” reminding the audience it was OK to be whoever they wanted to be and fly their flag as long as she was on stage. (Lang came out as a lesbian in 1992 and is active in the gay rights movement.)
While lang has no peers when it comes to her vocals, she is the goofiest-looking dancer on the planet. I don’t mean this is a bad way. Her herky-jerky method of moving around is endearing and fits perfectly with her on-stage persona. The audience cracked up with every step, not laughing at her, but with her. It was just another layer of perfection.
Mention should be made of lang’s back up band. They seemed to be in perfect consort with their leader. Joe Pisapia, who shares writing credits on several of the new tunes, rocked lead guitar. Joshua Grange played rhythm guitar, while “the Zen Cowboy,” Lex Price, anchored the group on bass. Daniel Clark provided keyboard support, along with some great work on the electric organ. Fred Eltringham provided solid stick work on the drums. When we got to our seats and saw the massive setup, I was concerned the band would be overpowering. Not to worry. The sound mix was exactly balanced.
She toned it down with a cover of the Talking Heads’ “Heaven,” and flowed seamlessly into a show-stopping, jaw-dropping interpretation of Leonard Cohen’s beautiful, haunting, heart-breaking “Hallelujah,” the song she performed at the opening of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Our seats were on the floor near the back of the hall with a sweeping view of the venue. I watched the crowd as lang poured her soul into the song. No one moved, other than a few people swiping at tears falling down their cheeks. I had to remind myself to breathe. Over the years, I’ve been to a lot of concerts, but I don’t remember a performance this good. My heart cracked open – in a good way – leaving room for more of lang’s magic.
There were other solid songs after “Hallelujah,” and she returned for two encores, but make no mistake – that song is what people will be talking about for many years to come.
For more information visit kdlang.com
Click here to hear a audio clip of “Hallelujah" from the Olympics. There are a few amateur videos, but the official clip seems to be mysteriously absent from YouTube.
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