Diamanda Galás gives otherworldly performance in Chicago. April 17, 2017
by Leslie Gray
The scent of death and resurrection was fresh in the air when Diamanda Galás stepped onto the stage at Thalia Hall. It was the day after Easter, a fitting time for the avant-garde composer to make her final stop on a rare, 6-date US tour.
At 8:45 pm, she entered a stage lit red. Wearing a long black dress and bustle, she elegantly perched at her grand piano and began. Then the voice…that voice!
Eight octaves of harrowing glory were sustained to window-shattering lengths. Hers is the soundtrack you hear in the heights of ecstasy or when plummeting to the depths, a place so transfixing it instantly lulled the audience into absolute silence. People were scolded for whispers and clicked phones. Breasts were clutched. Wombs stirred.
This was a vocal apocalypse.
“Triste à Mourir,” she wailed amidst a blood red sea.
“Die Stunde kommt, die Stunde kommt,” she bellowed, bemoaning the fateful hour.
“Excuse me I’ve got someone to kill,” she snarled, in her cover of Johnny Paycheck’s country ballad.
Galás’ operatic shrieks, moans, hisses and rasps cannot be contained by the English language, or any other. Her 75-minute performance featured songs in English, German, Greek and French from her two new albums, All the Way, which guts traditional and jazz standards, and At Saint Thomas the Apostle Harlem, a live album recorded at a Harlem church.
The artist’s small talk was minimal, limited to a, "I'm very happy to be back in Chicago, very happy indeed,” delivered mid-show.
After she gave her blessing, the lights darkened and the room turned black and blue as Galás cursed a cruel lover in a terrifying cover of “A soul that’s been abused.”
The show came to a close with three encores, the final being her famous rendition of Let My People Go, a spiritual originally sung by Paul Robeson that traces its history back to the Civil War.
Once finished, Galás bowed and quietly left the stage. Her remarkable performance was nothing less than a religious rite.
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