Photograph by: Bryan Schlosser , Regina Leader-Post
Diana Krall, shown at a Valentine’s concert in Regina, says the new show she’s touring across the country brings a touch of vaudeville theatre. She also loves to feel like she’s playing a gin joint.
Photograph by: Bryan Schlosser, Regina Leader-Post
When & where: Feb. 23-24, National Arts Centre
Tickets: Start at $85. At the NAC box office or, with surcharges, through Ticketmaster
Diana Krall has won two Grammys, eight Junos and sold upwards of six million albums. The 48-year-old, born in Nanaimo, B.C., has performed at the White House and recorded with Tony Bennett, Barbra Streisand and Ray Charles. On the eve of launching her Glad Rag Doll North American tour, which brings her to Ottawa Feb. 23-24, Krall places us in her shoes, and explains what it feels like for her to be onstage.
Like a dinner party
I know from the first few bars how the night will go. It’s like a dinner party. You know how sometimes you throw seven people at a table and they can’t find common ground and other times people sit down immediately and it’s like they’ve known each other for a million years? That’s how it feels when it’s good.
All I do is I go onstage and feel out the vibe. After I suit up in my hockey gear, adjust my skates just so and I watch the opening film from the side of the stage and I watch the band’s accompaniment until it’s my time to go out and sit at the piano. I make sure my shoes are on the right feet and then away we go ...
Love that gin joint feeling
The new show is vaudeville theatre. I’ve played a lot of vaudeville theatres in my day, a lot of gin joints, and I love that feeling. I like the idea that the band is in a film, like some distant memory of the silver screen. I like the idea that the concert begins and it’s like putting needle to wax — the music doesn’t need the visuals, the music’s strong enough on its own, but this is something I’ve been cooking up my whole life. The overture begins with Steve Buscemi playing the vaudeville barker and he says, “It’s a little darker than love being here with you.” It’s not a nostalgia project; the new show is mixing avant-garde with The Band.
That’s right, The Band. Is that surprising? The Band have been the biggest influence my whole life. The Band, Bob Dylan and Neil Young. I don’t play bass, drums and guitar; we do standards and obscure songs from the ‘20s, but they’re an influence on me. Essentially, they taught me to play whatever I feel.
Expect audience participation
I play to enjoy myself. I’ll talk to people if they talk to me. I even have a section where I’m on the piano and singing and it’s like, “What do you want to hear?” Sometimes, people scream out obscure songs. Once, somebody asked for Elvis Presley, and I did it. I’m an old piano bar player, so I’m used to it. My show is definitely an audience participation experience — it’s pretty fun.
The stage is like a living room
On tour, we travel 18 hours on buses and run around cities — literally, jogging around from appointment to appointment; there’s no time to even go to the hotel — but then when you get onstage, it’s the best part of the day. I get onstage and relax. That’s why I do what I do, that’s the easiest part: I let everything go and have a ball.
Onstage, I feel like I’m not separated from the audience; the audience has to feel like I’m in their living room. That’s why I love Jann Arden: What you see is what you get. I’m closer to that than playing a character, the imagination of the diva. Early on, I got pressure about what I had to be and struggled with that: “Put your gown on and be a diva,” has never worked for me. I’d love to be Jann Arden.
Find your own story in the songs
The job is: You want the audience to feel as good as you do. I want everyone with me, not away from me. My job is to make everybody feel something — feel good or feel a groove, feel a ballad and sadness or else feel elation. I’m the one to take them to that place. It’s not them watching you tell them about your emotional journey, you’re trying to help them find theirs. You’ll never hear me say, “This is about me when I was going through this breakup, blah, blah, blah, this is about my bastard boyfriend.” I don’t do that. These songs are for you. Find your own story. Listen to Neil Young at Massey Hall. He’s the best at this. He might say, “I wrote this song in Vancouver.” He doesn’t tell too much or too little — he leads you to your own thoughts.
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