Thursday, February 15, 2007

I was supposed to go to see Diamanda Galas last night at the Knit. It being Valentine's Day and, ergo, me being obliged to have dinner out with Linda (she being sentimental that way), I was to attend the 10:30 set and review it for PT. But I was feeling somewhat under the weather, had a very tiring day at work, felt worse after a heavy Jamaican meal (Blue Mahoe on East 14th St) and figured I'd be pretty much worthless after hanging around an additional two or so hours for her set to begin.

Kinda curious what it would've been like, even though I haven't listened to Galas much since around 'Malediction and Prayer' ('98). I'd been a fan since her first release, "The Litanies of Satan", around '82. I'd only seen her once before, catching the performance at St. John the Divine that would later be issued as the 'Plague Mass' set. Pretty unique show, that one. The crowd was amusingly varied, ranging from elderly couples clad in evening-wear (I think the event was part of a subscription series that, who knows, might have included the Hallelujah Chorus or something as well) to pierced and tattooed Goths in leather and chains. Ms. Galas emerged (as pictured above) in a topless, black gown, drenched in stage blood. I assume it was stage blood. The music was more hit and miss than the spectacle, though it's hard to deny the wacky power of punchlines like, "Give me sodomy or give me death!"

As time went on though, I found her work in that vein getting somewhat repetitive. Happily, she'd also branched off into more song-oriented work once in a while, albeit with mixed results. I really like most of her EP, "You Must Be Certain of the Devil" that came out in '88, especially the best AIDS-related song I've ever heard, 'Let's Not Chat About Despair". But later releases in this style, that is Galas at the piano singing her own or older blues-based songs, like "The Singer", were far more uneven.

I think last night's show would have been in this latter area and I would have liked to have heard how she's faring these days. I could imagine it working very well but we'll have to see the next time.


Richard Harland Smith said...

I always liked her witchy vocal work but Galas got on my nerves after a while and sounded a bit imperious in interviews. My opinion of her didn't improve after sitting next to her (and her entourage) at a Meredith Monk performance on the LES, for which she wore her sunglasses through the entire thing. I wanted to suggest another tattoo: "Get over yourself."

Joshua Kosman said...

Hey Brian — I share both your enthusiasm for the early DG and your sense that it's been a while since she was quite sure what to do next. Here's a link to my review of her recent SF appearance. Not sure if this is the show she was going to do in NY, but I'll guess yes.

In any case, when given a choice between Linda and Diamanda, I'd say you're always right to choose Linda.