On Friday, April 29th PopMatters was invited by tastemaker LA radio station KCRW to be one of the roughly 100 guests to watch k.d. lang perform with her new band, the Siss Boom Bang. Presumably as a warmup for her upcoming tour, which begins in late May, lang performed most of her new record Sing It Loud, which was released in early April on Nonesuch.
The venue, a private recording studio in Santa Monica, was packed with the mainstream musical illuminati of Los Angeles. Most of the men were wearing tight Levi’s, expensive cowboy boots, and corduroy suit jackets and the women were wearing an homage to Zooey Deschanel circa 500 Days of Summer. Tequila was being generously served so by the time k.d. lang walked through the audience and onto the stage the crowd had come to the conclusion that they were in Mecca and Lang was their Kaaba. Unlike Mecca, you did not have to be one of the Lang faithful to enjoy the show.
Whatever you think of her as an artist, k.d. lang can sing, that much is indisputable. She has a vocal timbre and range to rival anyone. Her new songs are good, if slightly formulaic, and she performs them with a gusto that is suited for small venues. At one point she mentioned that the album was influenced by Gillian Welch, and most of the songwriting seems to be a nod to Welch and alt-country legend Ryan Adams.
As per KCRW’s live broadcast formula Lang and her band were interviewed half way through the set by DJ Anne Litt, who happens to be a stunning six-foot blonde with a lightning fast wit and what can only be described as authentic presence. She is either taking a heavy dose of mood stabilizers or she has achieved spiritual unity. Only in Los Angeles could a DJ be so ridiculously attractive. During the on-stage interview it was revealed that lang originally co-wrote the songs with the band’s guitarist, Joe Pisapia, formerly of the band Guster. After writing the songs Pisapia recruited an all-star lineup of session and live players to accompany lang on the record and on tour.
lang’s singing is smooth and perfect, and the band obviously knows how to accompany a great singer by not overplaying. For some reason I couldn’t help thinking of Gillian Welch and Ryan Adams, and wishing they were there on stage with her too, if only to bring everyone in the audience back down to a melancholy country reality.
The live recording will be aired on Monday, May 16 on the radio in Los Angeles at 89.9 FM or streaming worldwide on KCRW.