Who: k.d. lang
When: 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 20
Where: Jackson Hall, Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts
Tickets: $41-$76 general, $21-$39 students; (530) 754-2787 or www.mondaviarts.org
What better place to see the “cow-punk” princess, k.d. lang, than the cow town of Davis?
Lang and the Siss Boom Bang, along with Teddy Thompson, will perform at 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 20, at the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts at UC Davis.
If you have any doubt about lang’s vocal prowess, check out her soul-stirring interpretation of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” at the 2005 Juno Awards. If that doesn’t give you goose bumps, check your pulse.
No wonder Tony Bennett said lang is “the best singer of her generation.” The sold-out crowd at her 2009 Mondavi performance can attest to that.
Last year was the 25th anniversary of lang’s recording debut. It was the perfect time to go back to her cow-punk country roots. Singing with her own band for the first time in decades, lang sounds fierce. The resulting album, “Sing it Loud,” is a revelation.
“I love going where I’m not supposed to go,” lang says in the production notes. “I love being the underdog. I love feeling like I’m starting at square zero again. I thrive on it.
“I always felt like there was a part of me that wanted to continue the cow-punk thing. But I didn’t want to push it. It’s something that has to arise naturally. And this was just the year. I felt it in the back of my soul.”
Teaming up with Nashville songwriter/guitarist Joe Pisapia seemed to do the trick. Fans of Wilco will dig their fast and loose approach. Songs like “Sugar Buzz” and “Sing it Loud” have a definite live feel, as if lang and company are jamming at a ramshackle honky-tonk minutes before last call.
“The music called for the immediacy, rawness and communication when it goes down live,” lang said. “To me, live off the floor vocally is where I feel my most confident. When you’re given the opportunity to just record a moment, that’s the ultimate for me.”
The album also displays other facets of her personality — the reflective balladeer on “Inglewood” and the Roy Orbison-esque romantic on “I Confess.” But my absolute favorite is the irony-laden Talking Heads cover “Heaven.”
The name of the bar, the bar is called heaven.
The band in heaven plays my favorite song.
They play it once again, they play it all night long.
Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens.
David Byrne is poking fun at those who strive for an unseen utopia while neglecting the here and now. Not trying to top the original’s post-punk energy, lang goes in an entirely different direction, singing beautifully and sincerely. Even the most staunch Christian conservatives can marvel at the twangy brilliance of the tune.
Lang has won four Grammy awards and eight Juno awards from her native Canada. But no amount of accolades will turn you into a fan. I admit I never paid much attention to k.d. lang but I’m a convert after just one listen of “Sing it Loud.”
Tickets range are $41-$76 general and $21-$39 for students; call (530) 754-2787 or visit www.mondaviarts.org.
— Reach Landon Christensen at [email protected]