The adjectives do not exist that can accurately describe kd lang’s voice and what it feels like to be in her presence. I have loved her voice since the first time I heard her on one of her early albums (either 1987’s Angel with a Lariat produced by Dave Edmunds or 1988’s Shadowland produced by Owen Bradley or maybe 1989’s Absolute Torch and Twang) but somehow never found the opportunity to see her live. And I only own one of her recordings – “So in Love” from the Cole Porter tribute album Red Hot + Blue from 1990. So when her Ingénue Redux tour was announced – celebrating the 25th anniversary of Ingénue, I knew I had to be there. (By the time the tour hit NYC it was the 26th anniversary – and celebrating that they were a bunch of gay seniors according to lang.)
The stage at the gorgeous Beacon Theatre was almost bare, so I was wondering how big a band she was going to have. There were keyboards on an organ and a set of guitar pedals and mic in front of the curtain. There were two big floor monitors on either side of the stage facing in and then two speakers on tripods on either side also facing in and acting as monitors.
The Australian Grigoryan Brothers opened. Slava and Leonard are classical guitarists and they entertained us with pieces by Tchaikovsky and Bach in addition to some of their original songs – all instrumental. They finished with “Jongo” by a Brazilian composer Paulo Bellinati, where they used the bodies of their acoustic guitars percussively in addition to the strings. Some of the audience was very into it (I was) and some were not. I do not think it was the best venue to showcase their talent but very talented they are. I would love to see them in a more traditional classical setting.
The Grigoryan Brothers played for a half-hour and by 8:20pm, the curtains parted and the band was on stage and kd lang came out singing “Save Me” and “The Mind of Love.” She explained to us that the album was meant to hypnotize you and they were going to perform it from start to finish with no stage banter. The surprise of seeing kd lang dance around the stage for “Miss Chatelaine” with such obvious joy on her face was enough to lift me out of any trance. For “Wash Me Clean” she literally washed off her hands at the end. They continued with the rest of album – “So It Shall Be,” “Still Thrives This Love,” “Season of Hollow Soul,” “Outside Myself,” and “Tears of Love’s Recall.” Then came the closer – “Constant Craving.” It’s impossible to get tired of that voice singing that song. The applause at the end was long and loud. She still has the chops – I thought for a minute that she had lost some of the high end in her voice but she used it for other songs.
lang used the entire stage and sometimes stood with a musician while he played a solo. Other times she stood off to the side. She was dressed in her usual uniform of dark jacket and pants with a matching vest and white collared shirt. And she was barefoot.
Behind the band were 10 klieg light containers with electric candles inside each. The curtains fell and twisted beautifully with lights or patterns changing their appearance.
When they finished the album, she went up to each member of the band and not only introduced them but gave us a brief and usually funny story for each person. When standing between the two female back-up singers, she said that she was finally in her comfort zone. Her amazing band is: Daniel Clarke (keyboards, organ, piano, accordion); David Piltch (electric and upright bass), who has played with her for 30 years; Grecco Burrato (electric and acoustic guitar and background vocals – and outstanding hair); Rich Hinman (pedal steel guitar, electric and acoustic guitar, mandolin); Andrew Borger (drums); Tahirah Memory (background vocals, percussion); and Moorea Masa (background vocals, percussion, and acoustic guitar), who was born 10 months after Ingénue was released, so lang thought it was possible that she deserves some credit.
She then played acoustic guitar for “Honey and Smoke” from her album case/lang/veirs with Neko Case and Laura Viers. lang was having so much fun on stage, laughing and joking and posing. There were jokes about how nice the weather had been that day and how stormy it had been the night before (referencing Sunday night’s 60 Minutes). And another about how they had Justin (and she was not talking about Bieber). After “I Dream of Spring,” she closed the show with songs by three of her favorite writers – all Canadian. Leonard Cohen was a given and I guessed Joni Mitchell and Neil Young. For “Help Me” she said that no matter how hard she tried she could not deconstruct a Joni Mitchell song – Joni Mitchell is tattooed on her soul. I agree with her that it is very difficult to do a Joni song and not sound like a poor imitation of Joni but if anyone could make us enjoy it anyway, even if we are still thinking of the original, it is kd lang. She did make “Helpless” totally her own to the point that if I was not already very familiar with the words, I would not have known whose song it was. Then came the closer – “Hallelujah.” You may think that you are sick and tired of that song but I defy you to hear kd lang perform it – especially live – where she inhabits that song in a way that no one else can and you will think you are hearing it for the first time. At the end there are three “hallelujahs” and she pauses after the second. I knew there was one more but when the audience started clapping, I could not contain myself and I jumped up to applaud. It was a long time before she silenced us with a small hand motion and then finished the song as if there had been no interruption.
For the encore we heard “Sing It Loud” and “Sleeping Alone.” I lost track of how many times I got chills throughout the night.
By Carene Lydia Lopez