k.d. lang and the Siss Boom Bang played a sold-out show at the Variety Playhouse last night, and the crowd was incredibly happy to see them. I have to admit, in the middle of what felt like an already long week, I hesitated to go. After all, k.d. lang does attract a certain kind of crowd. You know . . . people over 40. But as expected, Ms. lang showed why performers half her age should attend her concerts and take notes, and she was backed by a band whose members have serious country music street cred. (And at least one gigantic belt buckle.)
Playing a well-thought out mix of her classics, covers and new tracks from Sing It Loud, k.d. lang brought her best torch and twang to Little 5 Points. Always one part Patsy Kline mixed with Elvis’ swagger, k.d., who turns 50 in less than a month, now has the confidence of Jagger, strutting the stage and commanding her audience to worship and adore. With her stage presence and a voice that is as remarkable as ever, how could you not? And whether it was the result of a careful sound check and/or an incredibly talented crew, the sound mix at last night’s show was one of the best I’ve heard in Atlanta.
k.d. did not disappoint her country and western audience members or lovers of her torchy “pop” hits and performed the classic “Miss Chatelaine” with exuberance and humor giving it a fresh spin. After telling the audience to let their “freak flags fly” early in the show, she later decided it was time to “repent” with covers of the Talking Heads’ “Heaven” and Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”
Let’s face it, “Hallelujah” is over done and has been turned into a song for “great singers” to show off with. The opening chords made my concert companion groan and leave to buy more beer in the lobby. But k.d. lang reminded everyone what a remarkable song it is with a honestly breath-taking and pitch perfect performance. Luckily for my friend, the beer line was short, and she didn’t miss this “wow” moment.
Playing to an audience that knows her well, Ms. lang ended her initial set with “Constant Craving,” again performing a classic with bravado and freshness. The audience would not be denied two sets of encores, and k.d. lang and the Siss Boom Bang ended the concert with her cover of “A Kiss to Build a Dream On,” which she dedicated to her friend and duet partner Tony Bennett. Whether you’re gay or straight, it was a panty-dropper.
In this era of singing competition shows, the rise of Glee, and the abuse of Auto-Tune, it’s easy to forget how rare a truly talented singer and musician is. It was amazing to see k.d. lang teach a master class at last night’s show.