Earlier tonight I went to a Diana Krall concert at the Hong Kong Exhibition Centre. The venue was a terrible choice and didn’t do justice to the Canadian talent. The concert hall, converted half-heartedly from a convention center, featured rows of cheap electric blue plastic chairs strung together on a flat concrete floor, which means half of my view was blocked by the balding head in front of me. To make things worse, less than a quarter of the space was used for the concert itself, making the troupe look like some garage band playing in an empty warehouse. No wonder international stars often snub Hong Kong and head straight to Tokyo and Singapore where they are treated with more respect. But enough griping about Hong Kong.
A true Canadian, Krall possesses an unassuming and understated stage persona. More remarkably, she seems truly happy with her life, which is more than what we can say about most celebrities these days. The chanteuse is happily married to fellow singer Elvis Costello and is a proud mother of two, a fact that she readily shared with the audience in her monologue after the opening act.
Krall’s post-bop, free jazz improvisation was exhilarating without being over-done. She also enjoyed great on-stage chemistry with her band, punctuating her singing with an occasional musical joke played on them and throwing them a wink or a smirk from time to time. With that silky-sooth, lazy-Sunday-morning contralto voice, it is easy to forget how good a pianist she really is. In fact, Krall started out as a jazz pianist before she left Vancouver for L.A. to take up singing.
Much to my delight, most of the numbers she chose for the evening were not taken from her studio-recorded albums, but rather from a separate songbook she performs only in live concerts, such as Joni Mitchell’s A Case of You and Gershwin’s S’Wonderful. In tonight’s performance, however, Krall left out several classic crowd-pleasers like Fly Me to the Moon and Billy Joel’s Just the Way You Are, songs that roused the audience to a frenzy in her 2001 concert in Paris. Her omission had no doubt disappointed many this evening.
If you don’t already own a Diana Krall album, you should pick up a copy of her Christmas album (released in 2005) from the record store before the holiday season begins. Lush, light-hearted and delightfully festive, it will be the only Christmas album you ever want to play at your holiday dinner parties.