KCRW hosts k.d. lang in special Berkeley Street Studio Session

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by KCRW Volunteer Taryn Olsen

k.d. lang has won multiple Grammy awards and is known for her incredible live performances, so when I heard I was going to see an intimate show with the singer and her new band, hosted by KCRW, I was very excited. Needless to say, I had good reason to be!

KDLang21Photo by Bryony Shearmur

I spent a lot of time talking to people at the station before the show started, asking what they like about k.d. lang.

Every person, without fail, said they love her exceptional voice.

I thought I was prepared for how beautiful and clear her voice would be, particularly in new songs born out of her collaboration with her band the Siss Boom Bang (Joe Pisapia, Daniel Clark, Fred Eltringham, Josh Grange, & Lex Price). Let me say, unequivocally, I was not.

The breathtaking power and beauty that is k.d. lang’s voice is exhilarating in live performance. Even watching her sound check, I was stunned by the professionalism with which she talked to her band and the sound technicians – stopping and starting songs until she felt the sound was just right.

Watching her was like watching an Olympic athlete – like she was born to sing and had worked on her voice like working out a muscle all her life.

KDLang80Photo by Bryony Shearmur

It’s no surprise that when KCRW DJ Anne Litt asked her Twitter followers what they wanted her to ask k.d. in her mid-set interview, many of them wanted to know how she keeps her voice in shape, especially because she doesn’t wear an earpiece when she’s on stage. Though she didn’t give away her secrets, we know she brought her own specific brand of tea and a request was made for seedless watermelon, so perhaps that is just a hint into her process. She has also been exposed to music her entire life, as the youngest of four kids that studied classical piano.

Bryony Shearmur

Another large part of the interview involved the camaraderie between k.d. and her new bandmates. After meeting Joe Pisapia just once through a mutual friend, k.d. decided to “follow her instincts” and fly to Nashville to meet  with Joe, Daniel, and Josh for a writing session. It proved a fruitful venture as the group wrote three songs the first day. From there, the group of six has obviously cultivated a relationship that appears far more like friendship than simple co-workers. They all had the audience laughing as they verbally elbowed each other in the ribs throughout the show – at one point k.d. called out one of her bandmates for leaving the stage during her interview to get tequila at the bar, saying that he was probably, “showing a girl how to open a beer with his belt buckle.”

Bryony Shearmur

It was moments like these that made me see k.d.’s new album “Sing It Loud” in an entirely different light. Leaving on Friday night, I felt that while her songs were still intensely personal, there was also great joy to be found in them. It’s the type of joy that comes from feeling at home – meeting friends that will bolster you, giving you the freedom to fully express yourself.

Anne Litt played the title track “Sing It Loud” on her Saturday show this weekend and afterward said that the station is in a love affair with k.d. lang right now. I can’t speak for the station but I do know that I am. My heart was stolen by k.d. lang and the Siss Boom Bang on Friday night and I’m okay with it – if they’re keeping it, I don’t need it back.

The live performance spotlighting songs from her latest release — as well as the interview — was recorded and will be broadcast on Morning Becomes Eclectic on Monday May 16. Don’t miss this one!

k.d. Lang and the Siss Boom Bang Set List

I Confess

Perfect WordThe Water’s Edge

A Sleep with No Dreaming

> Interview

Sing It Loud

Reminiscing (Little River Band Cover)


Habit of Mind

Encore: Sugar Buzz

KCRW’s previous Berkeley Street Sessions at Apogee studios have featured Chrissie Hynde, Janelle Monae, Interpol, David Gray and more. Check out an audio and video archive of these intimate events here.