Diana Krall, I love you.
Perhaps that’s not the height of detached criticism, but it’s the way I felt after attending the first of Krall’s two Toronto performances on Thursday night at Massey Hall and I’m sure most of the audience felt the same.
This is no ordinary “sit at the piano and plunk out some tunes” kind of evening. Far from it. The show is called theGlad Rag Doll Tour, in honour of the 1920s song that gave its title to Krall’s latest album.
The milieu of the Ziegfeld Follies, its tragic beauties and a world that was going to spin so fast that it would crash right into a depression has inspired Krall in more than her tunestack and the plangent quality of her voice.
With the help of designers Colleen Atwood and Mark Seliger, she’s given us a whole world, of swag draperies, twinkling lights, moody shadows and fading romance.
An eccentric but wonderful choice of silent film clips accompany every song, sometimes underlining the theme, sometimes providing a contrapuntal note that’s contradictory, but not dissonant.
Krall herself has been liberated by this music. She’s more relaxed, more personable, more absolutely accessible than I’ve ever seen her. With her lioness mane of blond hair and that gait of hers that’s part seductive slink and part confrontational swagger, she manages to hold the house in thrall. Rhymes with Krall.
The casual bravura with which she slides from a rousing bit of barrelhouse blues to some tasty jazz filigree is a reminder of what an accomplished keyboard virtuoso she is. She turns down a request to sing “Over the Rainbow” by flipping her fingers in a Zez Confrey frenzy to deliver the Wicked Witch’s Theme music instead.
Wit, style and just a bit of attitude. Nice.
The piano skills remain impressive, but this time around you’re likely to notice her voice even more.
There are layers of flavour in that vocal delivery. Sip through the whipped cream into the hot chocolate and past that to discover the dark rum underneath.
That’s what Krall delivers in a song like “Cry Me a River,” making a three-minute chanson into a three-act drama.
I particularly cherished her trio of “thoroughfare” songs: “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” “Lonely Avenue” and “The Boulevard of Broken Dreams.” Each one had a distinctive sound, an emotional resonance and the dramatic flare to take us on a mini-musical journey.
“Boulevard,” in particular, was a knockout. Watching a film clip of George Raft and Carole Lombard doing the tango while the lights above glowed indigo and Krall blazed from within, made for an image not to be forgotten.
Her five sidemen played with uncommon skill and she thanked them generously and often. But the major thanks for the evening should go to Krall, who took things just that one extra step that makes a good performer a great one.
The show she’s presenting at Massey Hall is a unique work of art and you have only one more night to see it. I’d make the journey.
Read the article at The Star online.