Strutting onto the Hummingbird Centre stage with both arms triumphantly raised -- despite negligible applause -- cracker soul diva Shelby Lynne was already in trouble before singing her first note.
That she then leaned forward cupping her ear and the audience still wouldn't budge just made an awkward moment embarrassing.
Lynne tried to shrug it off and continued belting out the good-love-gone-bad tunes from her career-reviving I Am Shelby Lynne album, but you could tell she was thrown by the chilly reception.
This was k.d. lang's crowd, and no one was willing to play along with Lynne's games. When she stopped mid-song and paused for dramatic effect, she held her band frozen for a moment too long. Eventually, the tension-filled silence was broken by an uneasy giggle and hesitant clapping followed by an eruption of laughter -- not the reaction you want for a brooding breakup ballad.
No doubt Lynne could learn something about working a crowd from a pro like lang.
The bubbly headliner -- dressed for the beach -- made a point early in her performance of the breezy tunes from Invincible Summer to mention that she'd picked up a cold in Santa Fe. Later on, during a lull, lang let slip that she was "stalling."
After singing a breathy, Marilyn Monroe-style Happy Birthday to someone named "Dusty," she reiterated that she was stalling. It left everyone thinking, "Oh, poor k.d., she's concerned she isn't fit enough to tackle the next song."
At that, the band began the intro to Roy Orbison's Crying -- her nut-busting showpiece -- and lang's voice cracked slightly during the first verse, at which the audience gasped quietly in unison. Got 'em.
From there on in, lang let fly --sending notes soaring through the roof to thrilling perfection. As she held onto the last note, the whole crowd rose, cheering deliriously, as though they'd just seen the Red Sea part. Ah, show business.
SHELBY LYNNE, opening for k.d. lang, at the Hummingbird Centre, August 23. Tickets: $37.75-$57.75. Attendance: 2,700. Rating: NNN