Before seeing Diamanda Galás last week, I was trying to find ways to describe her. Some adjectives and nouns I used: avant-garde, scary, goth, blues, shrieking, banshee, wailing, mournful, strange. Nothing I said I felt conveyed adequately how Galás affects me. I mean, how do you describe this:
I didn’t convert anyone, but I didn’t really give a shit. I finally got to see her perform live, and that’s really all I care about. At the Palace Theater in DTLA, I sat staring at her Steinway waiting for her to come out. The lights come down, we all cheer in anticipation, and nothing. She waiting five minutes before finally emerging from stage left. What followed was 90 minutes of the most enthralling, rapturous, mournful and moving performances I have ever witnessed.
From her take on “La llorona” to the Supremes “My World Is Empty Without You” to “O Death” to “Pardon Me I’ve Got Someone to Kill” to an untitled Hank Williams song, her voice took me on an emotional journey that when she ended the night with “Let My People Go” I was a tearful mess. The eight legs of the devil were crawling up my spine, and as the lights went back up in the theater I couldn’t move.
All of us in the theater felt the same way as we gave her a standing ovation, not wanting to leave, wanting more and more as we realized that we had all survived the excesses of our youth. We had all had our fair share of mourning, and being the “different” people, the outsiders, this is how we commiserate.
This was the most moved I’ve ever been at a concert, and I’ll never forget it.