Unsurprisingly, k.d. lang Kills

I’ll admit: I wimp out easily. Even when it’s Regina Folk Festival weekend.

The photo above of one Mr. Mangan doesn’t make the weather look so bad. A little cloudy, but that’s nothing a windbreaker shouldn’t keep you safe from.

I didn’t run for cover as soon as the rain really started beating down, but it wasn’t long after that I scurried off. Dan Mangan had just started his final song, “Robots” off of 2009’s Nice, Nice, Very Nice, when someone somewhere said “I don’t know” and God decided to make it a You Can’t Do That on Television reference by soaking everyone. (Thankfully, he probably reserves green slime for the really naughty people.)

So yeah, I wimped out, ran back to my apartment, and hunkered down with some Chuck for a while, allowing my inner couch potato to take over.

What I thought of the main stage sets I did see some of.

Dan Mangan Folk fests can come way outside of regular touring schedules for artists and, while most of Canada will be seeing Mangan this fall when he’s touring behind his new album, Oh Fortune, instead, we got treated to a bunch of songs off an album that we won’t be able to buy for another month. I do mean treated, though.

Calling Mangan a folk-pop guy doesn’t work anymore, as he’s collected a band and gone for a sound with his new material that’s far off from anything he’s done previously. All the tracks he was playing sounded like the product of a tight group of creative people, not necessarily interested in first conveying Mangan’s fine lyricism but also thinking about making some cool instrumental stuff.

Compare that to when Mangan was last in town, doing a quick set at the end of a Library Voices show. Then, the line-up of his band was a far cry from anything you might have heard on the album. It was an exciting change, with strings and peculiar arrangements being the order of the day.

I feel like I’ve seen two Mangans: the one a restless artistic force, never settling on a band or a sound, and the other a Mangan assured of what he’s going for. I feel like Oh Fortune will prove to be of the latter Mangan.

Taj Mahal I had always remembered Taj Mahal as a low-key blues guy. Or at least that’s the impression I got from my experience with the “Best of” comp from my dad’s collection. Saturday night, though, the man was a party.

With a workman-like rhythm section, he kept the blues blue while also amping up the crowd. While that was going on, you had to appreciate the level of songcraft at work in his material. A song like “Queen Bee”, which made a late-set appearance, is marvelously direct while also being pretty compelling to listen to and consider. Right on, Taj Mahal.

k.d. lang Fuck the haters, k.d. lang owned it. prairie dog contributor John Cameron retweeted someone who was frustrated that lang had played so many covers. I’m not even going to track that tweet down, because it’s such nonsense.

When lang performs, it’s for you to just stand back and go, “Wow. This is the level of talent we are watching right now.” Most everything about her set was impeccable. Her selection of songs: great. Her backing band: right on. The presentation and her showmanship: amazing.

Last but not least, that voice. When the Leonard Cohen-penned “Hallelujah” came around, the crowd was almost entirely silent, awed at what was going on. Plenty of people have recorded plenty of crappy covers of that tune — there’s a spoken word version that Bono did that comes to mind — and we need to shut that down. The definitive cover of that song has been done. Let’s move on.

lang has the level of talent that she could simply coast on and we would still be lucky to have her around. That she decides to put real effort and consideration into her work too means we are straight-up blessed to have her town.

Author: James Brotheridge

Contributing Editor with Prairie Dog.

7 thoughts on “Unsurprisingly, k.d. lang Kills”

  1. I agree that the definitive cover of “Hallelujah” has been done, by Jeff Buckley.

    Now KD’s version is wonderful. She has an incredible voice and is a sensitive interpreter.

    But Buckley’s version is magical. He too has an incredible voice. He doesn’t have the power of KD but I think his version is more nuanced than hers. The arrangement of the song is beautiful and he also taps into the humour in the song without sacrificing the pain and the joy and the longing.

    He didn’t even need to die young to bolster the claim to the best version of “Hallelujah”. That he did die so young just makes the gift of that song so much more precious.

  2. BTW, there’s always this man dancing tai chi around the daytime stages–who is that guy and what’s his bag? Everyone ignores him–if I did that,
    people would throw sh*t at me and laugh =

  3. the dancing guy has been dancing for years. he goes to some of the clubs, and frequents live shows in regina.
    …and i wouldn’t throw shit at you!

  4. Thanks for the tip on the John Cale version, I hadn’t heard that one before. I’m still inclined to the Buckley version, but Cale’s is very strong. All of these versions just confirm what a good song it is.

    I’ll always think fondly of John Cale. Back in the day he played the Be Bop Cafe in Regina, which was housed in the same space now occupied by Prairie Dog. I was a waiter there, and the manager Sandy Pandya sent me out to keep John Cale company while he ate dinner before his show. He very politely listened as this jumped up 24 year old with a dubious hairdo told him all about his big thoughts. That man is a class act.

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