Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Diamanda Galas

During her performance I was asked, do you like her? The answer was no, but I'm still glad I saw her. Diamanda Galas is performing at the very nice Highline Ballroom these days. I had heard lots about her, but had never seen or heard her. What sparked my interest is that she is singing old chestnuts and of course, one would like to know what they are transformed into after she regurgitates them out of her frighteningly powerful throat.
The shrieking is by turns deafening, haunting, primeval, gothic, insane. She makes you experience something deeply unsettling from song.
The voice will remind you of a thousand muezzin calls (in a fantastic Greek song with middle eastern stylings) or of air raid sirens or of the wailing of the insane at an asylum, or of forest animals howling or of inhuman creatures of the night. I much preferred her quiet, brooding take on gorgeous French love songs and blues songs, for she is a great stylist and her idiosyncratic, darkly romantic interpretations are fantastic. She plays the piano as idiosyncratically as she sings, with a deliberate lack of finesse, although you can tell she's got plenty of technique. She makes everything into something eerie and gothic and scary, and to me it feels as if it's about time she outgrew it, for she certainly has the talent and the pipes to transcend that. Her whole gothic, punkish, very eighties glam thing seems like a true blast from the past, and almost self-parodic. It's not only the 1980's it recalls, but really more like the 1880's.
She adds way too much echo and amplification at the heights of her screaming. I understand she is going for a powerful, disturbing effect, but I wonder if it's necessary. The prodigious quality and range of her voice come through loud and clear. Very loud noise can be bracing and exhilarating, ear splitting noise proves exhausting.
I expected to find an audience composed exclusively of goths and eighties nostalgics, but the crowd was the most mixed bunch of people I have ever seen outside of Coney Island. There were the requisite die hard fans, gays who love divas, people her age, etc, but there were also people who looked like they were from Kansas and they think Dick Cheney's great and others who looked like dentists or regular nerds. Most of the audience knew what they came to see. Those who didn't were suffering the ecstasies of martyrdom, not very gladly.
I am a big fan of undisturbed, harmonic melody. I may be a philistine when it comes to dissonance. Also, I'm decidedly not a fan of Camp. Thus, one hour of her singing will be enough to last me a lifetime. But again, it was great to see someone so fiercely committed to her unique talent, someone who in this day and age where everyone is a whore, is so not selling out to The Man.
Now let's get us some tickets to the next Barry Manilow show*.

*Just kidding.

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