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An unconventional k.d. lang remains in charge

Walt Disney Concert Hall , Los Angeles, Jan. 7, 2005

By Dan MacIntosh

LOS ANGELES - Singer k.d. lang may have been performing at a relatively new and rather highbrow concert hall in downtown Los Angeles, but even such a dressy affair couldn't keep this engaging artist from getting a little playful with the whole potentially stuffy situation.

Although she came out dressed in a loose fitting suit, she was also completely barefoot. And by the time she reached the third song in her set, the accordion-driven "Miss Chatelaine," she was prancing about the stage and doing mock ballet poses. It's safe to say that when the unconventional lang is in charge, there's just no such thing as a conventional setting.

Even such physical silliness couldn't hide the fact that lang is a naturally wonderful singer. In the past, her repertoire has spanned everything from traditional country to Tony Bennett-styled American song standards.

This time out, however, she was supporting her new "Hymns of the 49th Parallel," a tribute to the diverse singer/songwriters of her native Canadian homeland. Her selection of songs for this project is predictably eclectic.

And while it's not surprising to hear her sing Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" and Neil Young's "Helpless," it was an especially unexpected treat to experience lang's in-person tribute to the works of Bruce Cockburn ("One Day I Walk"), Ron Sexsmith ("Fallen") and Jane Siberry ("The Valley," "Love Is Everything"). She is clearly attracted to eccentrics like herself.

The artist was backed instrumentally by guitar, standup bass, drums, piano and a string quartet, so the general sound of lang's performance tonight primarily adhered to a folk-ish chamber pop bent. One band member, Greg Leisz, had his steel guitar at the ready the whole night, but only played it during the two encores of "Three Cigarettes in an Ashtray" and "Kiss To Build a Dream On." Put simply: this was a night of almost all torch, but very little twang.

Someone like lang is just a little too musically open minded to ever remain with any particular style for too long, so styles - such as country - have only offered temporary lodging to this artistically restless spirit.

As lang's latest set proves once again, she's always been focused on the art singing and the depth of songs, instead of showing allegiance to one genre over another. In the best Disney tradition, k.d. lang added a touch of childlike wonder to the singer/songwriter tradition tonight. So at least for a little while, this was the happiest place on earth.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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