It would be easy to pigeonhole k.d. lang as the queen of gorgeous downer pop, and indeed she does reign supreme when singing of unrequited longing.
The songs on her latest album, "Invincible Summer," however, are atypically upbeat and delightful--as in filled with delight at the joy of love's first blush.
But lang followers know that "Invincible Summer" isn't really a stylistic turnaround. Whether what she's singing is outwardly happy or sad, the signature voice with which she sings it carries its own tale of inner strength that can weather whatever the gods of romance giveth or taketh away.
So although the new album hasn't brought lang significant numbers of new admirers, her cult following turned out in force Tuesday at the Sun Theatre in Anaheim to revel in the charms of her "Invincible Summer" tour.
And what charms it has. Her 80-minute show offered nine of the album's 11 songs, rounded out with a couple of staples--her show-stopping version of Roy Orbison's "Crying" and the Grammy-winning "Constant Craving."
The "Summer" material grew out of a move from her native Canada to Southern California, and it reflects a sunnier attitude lyrically as well as touches of surf guitar and pulsing backbeats. Beneath the sunny exterior, though, swirl evocative electronica touches that add the complexity of a meeting between Judy Garland and Beck.
The twang of her early days as an avant-country singer is long gone, but the torch in her music remains absolute. "Summer" is practically obsessive in celebrating that exquisite moment when love, or just good old-fashioned lust, surfaces in a relationship.
Lang loves to draw out words and phrases in languid stretches that mirror the desire in those songs to hold onto moments of romantic perfection that in real life vanish all too soon.
Her first and most obvious vocal model may be Patsy Cline, but "Summer" emphasizes her debt to such pre-rock singers as Garland, Frank Sinatra and Peggy Lee for the skilled, behind-the-beat delivery that heightens musical tension and makes her appear--dare we say it?--invincible.
Yve Adam, a Vancouver quartet fronted by singer Yve and her guitarist-songwriting partner Adam Popowitz, played moody pop-rock that eased easily into lang's set. Yve hit Sinead O'Connor-like pure tones in her high register and reedy Melissa Etheridge sounds below as she limberly danced her way through dreamy Eurythmics turf.
* k.d. lang and Yve Adam play Friday at the Universal Amphitheatre, 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City. 8:15 p.m. $27.50 to $67. (818) 642-4440.