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 k.d. lang
Channels Sinatra

 k.d. lang
Channels Sinatra

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Canada's finest singer knocks 'em dead in Malibu before getting just a teensy bit political.

Nbroverman

With a suit, some swagger, and a voice nothing short of sublime, k.d. lang evoked memories of Camelot with her recent performance at California'a Malibu Performing Arts Center. Like seeing Old Blue Eyes at the Sands, lang's performance was an intimate, sophisticated affair punctuated by a wholly idiosyncratic talent.

The Sunday night performance was the latest in the KCRW Sessions series -- benefit concerts for the beloved Southern California radio station that broadcasts a mix of talk shows, indie music, and National Public Radio news. Tickets ran over a hundred bucks, and even if the profits weren't headed for a good cause (keeping KCRW and NPR alive in greater Los Angeles), it was money well spent.

Steps from the lapping waves of the Pacific, the Malibu Performing Arts Center is a modest 500-seat venue that's made for a quiet performer like lang. The lighting is gentle, the chairs plush, the sound crisp, and the stage views unobstructed. Balancing wine glasses above heels and leather loafers, audience members leisurely made their way to the seats before the prompt 7:30 start time. After a brief introduction by KCRW DJ Chris Douridas, lang and her five-piece band strode onto a stage decorated with a beige couch festooned with throw pillows.

Lang was a stylish vision in pinstriped gray pants, matching vest, and a checkered shirt with a chocolate-colored knot tied around the collar. She dove into "Upstream," a softly devastating number from this year's Watershed, her latest album. Neil Young's "Helpless" was next -- a song lang covered on her Canadian-themed Hymns of the 49th Parallel album. The uncomplicated chorus -- "Helpless, helpless, helpless" -- poured out of her mouth like honey. The audience was in a trance by the time lang was finished with "Thread," which she helped along with delicate, choreographed hand motions. Lang then rolled out "Western Stars," a 1988 cowgirl lament written by Chris Isaak.

Douridas emerged for a 20-minute interlude with lang, who sprawled out on the couch in a comfortable, sexy manner. Laughing, smiling, and flirting with her male host, lang conversed easily on fame, sex, and her Buddhist faith, amusing the all-ages audience without offending. Give this woman a talk show!

It was back to the music with the banjo-strumming goodness of Watershed's "Coming Home." While lang stuck mostly to recent material for the rest of the performance, those unfamiliar with the quiet folk of Watershed were not shifting in their seats; her voice is such an instrument of crystalline beauty, it could breathe life into "Mary Had a Little Lamb."

Swinging her arms and proclaiming her love of young, attractive men, lang brought the boys in the band - who managed drums, two guitars, bass, and piano -- close for the honky-tonk stylings of "Pay Dirt." The mellow, hypnotic "Jealous Dog" was a perfect segue for the night's apex: a heart-stopping rendition of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." A song so powerful that Britney Spears could give it weight, "Hallelujah" reached new heights with lang's voice and commitment. At the end, the hypnotized audience rose to their feet.

"I didn't want to get political," the crooner said before the night's fitting closer, "Right to Love." To cheers, lang urged her audience to vote against Proposition 8, the California ballot initiative that would ban same-sex marriage.

Check out these lyrics: "And yet they said that we were wrong / We hadn't the right to our love / That this love was shameful to see ... / We don't care at all / We have all we need / As long as we can be together."

Lang's emphasis on voice and environment was all very retro, but her message and urgency evoked the feeling that it couldn't have been any time other than now.

Nbroverman
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Neal Broverman

Neal Broverman is the Editorial Director, Print of Pride Media, publishers of The Advocate, Out, Out Traveler, and Plus, spending more than 20 years in journalism. He indulges his interest in transportation and urban planning with regular contributions to Los Angeles magazine, and his work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times and USA Today. He lives in the City of Angels with his husband, children, and their chiweenie.
Neal Broverman is the Editorial Director, Print of Pride Media, publishers of The Advocate, Out, Out Traveler, and Plus, spending more than 20 years in journalism. He indulges his interest in transportation and urban planning with regular contributions to Los Angeles magazine, and his work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times and USA Today. He lives in the City of Angels with his husband, children, and their chiweenie.