On Saturday night, the Scotiabank Centre in Halifax played host to one of the most talented artists that this great nation has birthed. In a celebration of the 25th anniversary of her breakthrough album Ingenue, KD Lang set out across our great nation on the 150th anniversary of Confederation to treat audiences to performances of that legendary album. On each stop, the supporting act was someone relatively local, and when the Ingenue tour hit Halifax, the folk/pop trio of Port Cities was tapped to open the show.
Tapping Breagh McKinnon, Carleton Stone and Dylan Guthro (aka Port Cities) was nothing short of brilliant, as their vocal harmonies and musicianship paired quite well for what was to follow. While the room may have felt enormous, it gave the band’s sound plenty of room to soar. This wasn’t a crowd that was going to get up and dance around, instead it was an audience ready to soak in this relatively new act and their fantastic songs. The band bantered well with the seasoned audience, and got some great laughs and chuckles from the crowd between songs. While it was a scant 25-30 minute opening slot, the band left a great impression and sounded fantastic on stage at the biggest room in town. It’s always a treat to see these three talented musicians play.
KD Lang is among the upper echelon of Canadian artists to ever grace a stage in this country, and that ascension can largely be attributed to Lang’s sophomore album Ingenue, which was released back in 1992 and celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. It was an album that serves as something of a line in the sand for Ms. Lang, as it was the album that marked her transition from her Albertan country roots into a markedly more jazz-influenced pop sound. The album also coincided with her public confirmation of her sexual orientation in an interview in The Advocate. It was a year that saw the emergence of one of the most iconic and stylish vocalists in music. Oh, and when the Juno for Album of the Year was awarded the following year, Ingenue took home the prize over such classic albums as The Hip’s Fully Completely, Blue Rodeo’s Lost Together, Gordon from the Barenaked Ladies, and Celine Deon’s self-titled album.
25 years ago, I would have been little more than an angsty teen who was crossing a threshold from lighter poppier fare such as Paula Abdul, Wilson Phillips, and the early years of future diva Mariah Carey, into the grungier sounds of Nirvana, Alice in Chains, and Pearl Jam. At that time, Ingenue might as well have been taking off in an alternate universe, but as I’ve grown up and my musical tastes have evolved, KD Lang’s music started to seep in. But never to any great degree, that is until Saturday evening. From the moment that the curtains parted and the immaculately coiffed, barefoot KD Lang hit the stage sporting a rather formal looking suit, and proceeded to sing the lead track “Save Me” from Ingenue, I was sold. That warm, sultry tone of Ms. Lang’s voice was flawless and hypnotic, and for roughly the next two hours the crowd was so steadfastly enthralled with the magical performance taking place on stage, it was akin to sitting in the Cohn, where you would have been able to hear a pin drop outside of the music. For a room that has a lacklustre reputation when it comes to sound, a tip of the cap is warranted to the sound engineer on this evening, as the sound in the Scotiabank Centre was pristine.
Now I would be completely remiss if I didn’t pay homage to KD’s world class band, as they were as flawless as she was. Not every singer songwriter has the foresight to allow her band to stretch their talents during a show, but Ms. Lang afforded her band ample time between songs to ply their craft, and to leave the audience in awe with their deft musicianship. From bassist David Piltch (who has played with KD for over 30 years) to lead guitarist (and yoga master) Greco Burrato, pianist Daniel Clarke (who has also played with Ryan Adams, Mandy Moore and the Dixie Chicks), slide guitarist Rich Hinman, drummer Andrew Border (who has played with Ani DiFranco and Norah Jones) and talented back-up singers Tahriah Memory and Moorea Masa. As good as they were, they were in lock-step with KD Lang for the entire evening.
For a show where not a single lighter/iPhone was raised, and where the near-omnipresent smartphone glow is a far-gone conclusion for most shows packed with twenty-somethings, this was an audience whose age skewed far higher, and was far politer as a result. As the set wound down, KD Lang performed a trio of covers, each one from a fellow Canadian Icon: “Help Me” by Joni Mitchell, “Helpless” written by Neil Young and the barn burner “Hallelujah” by the late Leonard Cohen. The bass intro to “Helpless “was jaw-droppingly good, and the way in which KD managed to smooth out those barbs and burrs that we have come to know and love from Shakey himself. But much like the remainder of the set and the three-song encore, Ms. Lang’s take on the perpetually covered classic from Mr. Cohen was the epitome of a master class in vocal control. It was beautifully subdued, simmering just below the surface, until she let her voice soar to the heavens as if to shake hands with the songwriter himself.
Having been in attendance for countless shows at the Halifax Metro Centre and the Scotiabank Centre, there aren’t many that I would consider flawless or near-flawless. However, on this September Saturday night, I would have to say that after I picked my jaw up off of the floor, this would be one I would consider to be near perfection. It was a magical evening in Halifax, thanks to Lang and her amazingly talented band. Walking in to the arena, I was rather indifferent, but walking out I was in awe of what I had just experienced, and would now consider myself a fan of this amazing artist.