k.d. lang – Humphrey’s by the Bay

Canadian chanteuse k.d. lang brought her beguiling torch and twang show to San Diego on the longest day of the year, and she was duly fueled by her adoring fans.  The tour is named after her current album “Siss Boom Bang,” and it was a very satisfying show. Lang has honed her impressive vocal chops and further refined her nudge nudge wink wink demeanor.  Although she relied once or twice too often on cover songs (and neglected her most compelling cover song), the setlist was a nice blend of some things new, some borrowed and only one too bluesy.

Much like Chris Isaak (who annually shines at this venue), lang opened with three strong songs and then paused for some humorous stage patter.  She then noted that after such suggestive songs, it was time to repent.  She then launched the best pairing of songs I have heard in eons.  She introduced the first song “from that great country band Talking Heads.”  The band then slid into a tremendous version of “Heaven” (assayed on her latest album), which was followed by her Canadian compadre Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”  The segue between the songs was a stirring church organ solo from keyboardist Daniel Clarke, who then shifted to piano to plink the opening chords of “Hallelujah.” The stunning rendition brought the first standing ovation of the evening.

I would have much preferred her scorching rendition of Roy Orbison’s “Crying” in lieu of the Little River Band’s forgettable “Reminiscing.”  Lang certainly put some sparkle into that otherwise insipid tune. “Sing It Loud” from the new album was a rousing call to arms, bringing the crowd to their feet.

The French-ified “Miss Chatelaine” is a perennial favorite, almost a requisite when she tours. “Summerfling” was especially evocative, given the seaside setting and boats bobbing nearby.

Her band was remarkable. Joshua Grange moved effortlessly among steel and electric guitars.  The rhythm section was solidly manned by Jerry Roe on drums and bassist Lex Price. It did not go unnoticed that the band was more hirsute than their leader.

I have never been disappointed by a k.d. lang performance.  One of her more memorable shows was in Nashville in the mid 1990s, where she “came out” for the country audience which had rejected her for too long. She took that evening in stride, and her stage confidence still remains infectious.  She has a knack for picking great songs to cover, and she should not shy away from her own material.  With Siss Boom Bang she will have another successful tour under her belt.

Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.