It's been awhile since I last went to see Diamanda Galas live, but know that as long as you know what she does, Diamanda is well worth seeing. For this current tour she is, as she has done for most of her career, performing solo with a grand piano and the Barbican is about two thirds full on a sweltering hot Monday night.
Diamanda doesn't have a support act and walks onstage to rapturous applause she is wearing an amazing looking long black ball gown as she walks over to the Grand Piano set up in the middle of the vast stage. She opens the set with a devastatingly dark version of Jacques Brel's Fernand with some very intense piano as her deep sonorous voice fills the hall and the French lyrics are at times almost spat at us as well as sung.
On She AKA Woman Diamanda unleashes the first of her trademark screams that still sound fearsome no matter how many times I've heard them over the years this is scary and dark and has some really expressive piano playing to go with it.
She then instils La Llorona with a darkness and passion that really evokes some dark pain that isn't as apparent in Chavela Vargas' more well-known version of this Spanish classic. A Soul That's Been Abused is as dark and twisted as the song title suggests and Diamanda attacks the deeper keys of the piano like she is trying to smash them while playing the piano in a similar style to how Martin Rev often attacks his keyboards.
Before Diamanda can read the poem Morphine two stagehands rush onto the stage to set up her microphone and lectern that she slowly walks to before part talking and part singing the poem to darkly delicious effect before slowly walking back to the piano while the stage hands remove the microphone and lectern.
As Diamanda likes to sing in a variety of languages the next song Die Stunde Kommt is in German is a full on blood dripping horror movie of a song that you might know from an old Dracula film if my research is right. It was certainly enough to curdle the blood in the unsuspecting.
Diamanda then re-invents the Greek classic O Prosfigas which is about being a refugee so that in this version it sounds like the despair felt by not being able to find somewhere safe or welcoming to live sadly this song is as relevant as it has ever been.
We then had a repeat of the setting up the microphone and lectern so that Diamanda can perform two more poems Shriek and Left Hand Of The Father both of which are filled with intensity but everything in this show is.
Diamanda returns to the piano for Artemis that really sounds like a sad lament for a long gone and missing Greek god. She then closes the set with her wonderfully dark reworking of Ralph Stanley's classic Oh Death that would have totally changed how it works in Oh Brother Where Art Thou if George Clooney's character had heard it sung like this, it's a magnificent tour de force and great way to end the show.
Yes the place goes slightly nuts to bring Diamanda back for her first encore a wondrously dark take on Johnny Paycheck's Pardon me I've Got Someone To Kill and damn the way this is sung you really believe she has a list and is about to go on a spree.
She wanders off again after thanking us and is soon back for her second encore of Marinella's Greek classic Anoixe Petra that is of course far darker than the original but no less romantic for its darkness.
After another long wave of applause Diamanda comes back for one final encore of Let My People Go in her standard interpretation of this classic and as ever it's spine chilling and I've always loved hearing her sing the line about the eight legs of the devil are crawling up your spine it always sounds so scary and is the perfect song to close a great set of the darkest most operatic blues.