It can be difficult to write about Diamanda without getting caught up in hyperbolic rhapsodies about the voice, her primary instrument. Yes, it is an amazing voice, immaculately trained and deployed, based in a long tradition of the voice, from blues, gospel, opera and bell canto, to the Mediterranean Maniot and middle-eastern phrasing. Galas knows her craft and deploys it to amazing effect.
What is interesting to write about is the effect of that voice and the whole performance. My interest in Galas started with the Plague Mass and it took me a long time to get used to her concert performances. I always wanted to see the more immersive performance pieces. But now I’ve come to appreciate the concerts in the context of recitals: performances of songs that are unique to that evening.
Which makes The Hour Will Come quite interesting; it verged on the edge of performance, at least for me. Opening with a couple of numbers in which Galas deployed her higher register for what feels like the first time in ages the concert started with an elegiac, commemorative tone. After which point we transitioned into the more expressive modes of being. Galas knows her Artaud and the psychic transmission of performance (inclusive of all performance elements) has informed her aesthetic. No more so than on the coruscating Man and Woman Go Through the Cancer Ward based on a text by Gottfried Benn. From the elegies we had now progressed to hell. Lighting and voice combined to full effect. This is the closest that anything I’ve seen Galas do has come to what originally flipped the on switch for me to her work. And after her recent collection of songs based on the European chanson, Guilty Guilty Guilty, Galas finished with a number of songs by Jacques Brel. From an elegy for those passing, to the depths of hell, out to something new, different, this felt like a performance.
Of course, that could just be my interpretation which is all I have to bring. But in a world where too many are feted with instant celebrity Galas in one of those artists who shows that knowing your technique and having a vision are what truly makes a relevant artist with something legitimate to communicate.