Review: k.d. lang's Ingenue, all grown up

What: k.d. lang with Laura Mitic
When: Saturday
Where: Royal Theatre
Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

Note: lang also performs Sunday at the Royal Theatre; the show is sold out

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By the end of her sold-out Saturday performance at the Royal Theatre, k.d. lang had made everything from high-wire vocal acrobatics to standup comedy hers alone.

Saturday was the first of two consecutive nights at the Royal for lang, 55.

She’s in town to kick off her 17-date national tour in support of Ingénue, the celebrated 1992 album that effectively made her a star. (The breakout recording turned 25 this year, hence the nationwide tour in support of it.)

Some of the songs from Ingénue haven’t been performed in decades, though deft musical tinkering kept them from sounding like museum pieces.

At the time, the album represented a massive musical shift for the former country music star, but the adult contemporary sound has been her wheelhouse ever since — and for good reason; few can sing with the power and poise that she possesses.

At the outset of the evening, a black stage curtain opened slowly, revealing a barefoot, suit-wearing lang, her head down, standing at the microphone. It was a stirring opening, heavy on atmosphere. That air remained for the duration of her 100-minute set.

She began the program with a run-through of Ingénue in sequence and in its entirety.

Fans who came to hear hits from elsewhere in her oeuvre had to be impressed: When she closed the first portion of her set with Constant Craving, the 10th and final song on Ingénue, the crowd immediately gave her a standing ovation.

During the second portion of her set, she played a range of material, from solo highlights and her take on Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah to a cover of Joni Mitchell’s Help Me.

Lang admitted to being dreadfully nervous prior to starting Help Me, but she played the stress for laughs.

“I’ve only performed this live once, and that was in front of Joni,” lang said, shaking her arms to rid herself of anxiety. “I’m probably going to screw this up.”

The night was jazzy in spots and folksy in others, but lang kept things lively with an ever-present humility and humour.

She hit funny bones with one-liners and double-entendres — and that was just the band introductions, which were worth the price of admission alone.

Kudos to her seven-piece band — one of the tightest on the road today, it could be argued — who grabbed Helpless and made the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young favourite pulse with new rhythm. Each member was noteworthy.

Lang was exemplary as well. She did a cha-cha to a theatre of cheers during Miss Chatelaine, and never once sounded out of step when she stretched herself. It was a bravura performance from one of the purest voices this country has produced.

Local singer-songwriter Laura Mitic opened the evening with a solid six-song set, highlighted by some impressive vocal runs and nifty acoustic guitar work.

Much of her set was new — Mitic and her Victoria band, Carmanah, have a new album due out in October — but the crowd was very supportive. Her cover of Fleetwood Mac’s Gold Dust Woman was a standout.

Mitic will open Sunday’s concert as well. Don’t miss her.

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