From the moment k.d.lang strode onto the stage to join her Siss Boom Bang band on Wednesday for their concert at Carmel’s Palladium, she was a force of nature.
Crooning, cavorting and camping it up, the tall androgynous singer with the voice of an angel displayed boundless energy and charisma as she swaggered and playfully flirted with an audience that clearly adored her.
Primarily featuring songs from “Sing It Loud,” the new CD from Lang and her band, the concert also included some of the four-time Grammy winner’s biggest hits during their 90-minute set.
Warming up the mostly middle-aged audience was opening act The Belle Brigade, an L.A.-based band anchored by young brother/sister duo Ethan and Barbara Gruska, who sang songs from their debut album (which bears the same title as the group’s name).
Singing songs titled “Sweet Louise,” “Shirt” and “Loser” – about love, loneliness and not fitting in – the siblings’ gorgeous, fully textured harmonies produced sounds reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac and Simon & Garfunkel.
Like most concert opening acts, The Belle Brigade were at first politely received by an audience eager to experience superstar Lang, but by the time they completed their 40-minute set, it was obvious they had gained a whole new group of fans impressed by their talent and earnest freshness.The mere fact that Lang chose them to tour with her is proof that the group, as she said during closing remarks, “is on their way.”
Dressed entirely in black except for a red silk scarf tied around her neck, and wearing her signature boyish haircut, Lang sang with and without her acoustic guitar. The Siss Boom Bang consisted of Joe Pisapia (also music director and co-producer of “Sing It Loud”) on guitar,Josh Grangeon guitar and pedal steel guitar,Daniel Clarke on keyboards, Lex Price on bass and Fred Eltringham on drums. The majority of the band lent a hand with backing vocals.
The Siss Boom Bang is Lang’s first band since the Reclines, with whom she performed and recorded a pair of albums early in her career. And a polished, exceptional band they are.
Performing songs from ”Sing it Loud,” which marks her return to her cow-punk roots, Lang’s program included “Water’s Edge,” “Perfect Word,” “A Sleep With No Dreaming,” “A Habit of Mind,” “Sorry Nevermore,” “Inglewood,” “Sugarbuzz,” the Talking Heads’ “Heaven” and “I Confess,” inspired by Roy Orbison, whose 1987 recorded duet of “Crying” with Lang helped boost her career.
Singing this mix of mostly country-rock-flavored original ballads and up-tempo tunes, Lang demonstrated not only the power and range of her vocal abilities but also her poetic side through the beauty and sensitivity of her songwriting.
Though the crowd was receptive to Lang’s new material, it was her classic songs and another she performed in front of a worldwide audience that created the most excitement during an evening that couldn’t have been more entertaining.
Singing the salsa-inspired “Miss Chatelaine,” from her 1992 “Ingénue,” album, Lang delighted the audience as she joyously traveled the stage, singing this song about the transformative nature of love and its ability to captivate those under its power.
Who can forget Lang’s rendition of “Hallelujah,” which she sang at the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada, the country of her birth? Reprising what has become an almost legendary performance, Lang was beyond moving in her plaintive, soulful interpretation of this song about relationships written by fellow Canadian composer Leonard Cohen.
Performing yet another song she has been most identified with, Lang sang “Constant Craving,” also from her “Ingénue” album, which she co-wrote with Ben Mink. Proving, once again, her ability to reach deep emotionally, she sang movingly about craving for truth.
After the very rousing “Paydirt,” Lang closed the show on an intimate note, with the haunting, melancholic “Hungry Bird” as her finale.
For tickets and information about upcoming Palladium performances, call (317) 843-3800 or visit www.thecenterfortheperformingarts.org.