March 2009

k. d. lang - Live in London
Image Entertainment UPS5262BD
Format: Blu-ray Disc
Released: 2009

by Rad Bennett

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ****
Image Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

This concert was recorded during k. d. lang’s tour in 2008 to promote Watershed, her first album of original songs since 2000. As a songwriter, lang is both simple and enigmatic. Her texts are drawn straight from the heart and from personal experience, dealing with romance and other human conditions. Her new music is eclectic, sounding like lush mood music punctuated with western and jazz signatures. My favorite was "Sunday," a sultry, sexy, seductive song that is more openly jazzy than the other tracks, and is about waiting eagerly all week for a Sunday tryst.

The program is spiked up a bit by the inclusion of songs that nod to the past. There’s the twangy ‘Pay Dirt" from lang’s initial Angel with a Lariat album, in which all the performers gang around a single microphone, old-timey style; and there’s a significant nod to other great Canadian songwriters by including Neil Young’s "Helpless" and Leonard Cohen’s "Hallelujah," as well as "Don’t Smoke in Bed," lang's tribute to Peggy Lee. Lang sings it all with that impeccable voice that has dazzled us for some time now, at present a little darker and even more beautiful than before. Astonishing to me is lang’s sense of pitch. She’s always, without exception, dead center of it.

This particular concert of the tour was shot at St. Luke’s church, an 18th-century landmark with an exceptionally warm ambience, enhanced by colorful lighting. The video is sharp and rich, crying out "high definition" at every turn. The audio is just about as good. There’s a large string section from the BBC Concert Orchestra on hand, so the overall sound is lush, yet it is also clean, and the balance among lang, her virtuoso band, and the strings is dead-on perfect, making this one of the best music titles in the fledgling Blu-ray catalog.