A SWEET SUMMER FLING! Grammy Winner kd Lang Delivers A Veritable Feast For The Ears At The McCallum Theatre
The McCallum Theatre and singer kd Lang are a match made in heaven. The McCallum theatre has proven, once again, that there is no better venue in Southern California for an intimate, acoustically "pitch perfect" concert --- and kd Lang's impeccable and unrivaled vocal quality fits every corner of the venue like a glove, as if it were designed and built solely to show off her incredible vocal prowess. There are rare times when you sit in the theatre and have to pinch yourself and think "Memorize this moment – it is something very special". Last night, I spent the evening with kd Lang and it was truly one of those rare and special moments.
Her opening act, The Milk Carton Kids, were witty, engaging and supremely musical. Their thirty minutes of warm-up seemed all too brief and they had the audience squarely in the palm of their hands – wanting more. Their song "I Get Away Stealing Romance" was simple yet extremely soulful and a definitive stand-out in their set.
Ms. Lang opened her 90-plus minute concert with "I Confess" and set the standard for what was to come – her voice is effortless, soaring, haunting perfection. I am warning you in advance that this will sound cliché – but it is true – her voice reaches out beyond the proscenium and totally envelops you and somehow speaks to the very core of your soul. It is mesmerizing. She displays sheer artistry at every turn, without leaning on any of the technical bells and whistles so many artists use as a crutch. From beginning to end it is just her voice. And it is a magnificent instrument.
She followed with "Summer Fling", "The Water's Edge" and "Miss Chatelaine" before she gave the audience a chance to catch their collective breath and provide a little banter. The show was nearly wall to wall music – when she did banter she was charming, funny, superbly fresh and "unrehearsed" in the best sense of the word. After an uplifting "Sing Out Loud" she told the audience it was "time to do a song from one of the great country bands – The Talking Heads" – and she delivered a magnificent cover of "Heaven".
In a show that delivered stand-out after stand-out, it is hard to single out a highlight. However, her vocally stunning "Hallelujah" garnered the first of five standing ovations in the evening and left the audience in exhausted bliss. The list goes on and on, crowd favorite after crowd favorite. At one point she traded her guitar for a banjo proclaiming "the banjo can be a real chick magnet". She even gave new life and perspective to her biggest hit "Constant Craving" which brought the audience, once again, to their feet.
Multiple encores included "Big Boned Girl" and "A Kiss To Build A Dream On" which she dedicated to her mentor, teacher, friend and fellow liberal, Tony Bennet – but perhaps the performance I personally loved the most was a brand new tune "Sleeping Alone".
Her band, The Siss Boom Bang, was as stellar as she --- led by co-producer and co-writer, Joe Pisapia – and the collaboration between voice and instrumentation is seamless and ever satisfying. Their camaraderie is evident and joyful. Mutual admiration and respect is obvious.
kd Lang is on the tail end of an 18 month tour. Those of us lucky enough to attend last night's performance prefer to believe it was an intimate evening created solely for our benefit. The McCallum will be hard pressed to surpass the sheer magic, artistry and electricity generated in their theatre last night – but, no doubt, they will. They always do.