Elegant and playfully exquisite were the overarching threads that ran through k.d. lang’s performance at the Lobero Theatre on Tuesday, March 6. The stop in Santa Barbara was one of 19 on this tour celebrating the 25-year anniversary of the release of the singer’s beautifully crafted album Ingénue. To do that, lang, backed by seven outstanding musicians dressed in black, ran through the album’s track listing in its original order.
Framed by a tastefully lit velvet proscenium and draped backdrop, the Lobero was the perfect fit, especially with the stage dotted by 10 carefully placed, vintage working lights that looked like they had just come off a movie set from the 1920s. Lang opened as on the album, with the languid swoon of “Save Me” instantly locking in the audience for the night. As she went through the tracks, it was clear this was not a look back but a look forward, with renditions that drew attention to the sophistication and nuance that have seasoned her voice over the past 25 years. Introspective songs like “The Mind of Love” and “Wash Me Clean” reminded you that this album was an emotional, heartfelt journey for lang. While the songs were faithful to the recorded versions, she and the band did find moments to stretch out on tunes, such as on the upbeat “Miss Chatelaine,” until reaching the album’s final exhale with the hit “Constant Craving.”
The set continued with a song from her collaboration with Neko Case and Laura Veirs. She then performed tracks from fellow Canadians Joni Mitchell (“Help Me”) and Neil Young (“Helpless”). The highlight of the show — other than the album itself — was her rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” She sang a heart-stopping version of the track in front of 60,000 people at the 2010 Olympics that is still one of my top five performances ever. To hear it in the 600-seat Lobero was, like the rest of the show, captivating.