Years Active: 38.
Provenance: San Diego, California.
Essential Albums: The Litanies of Satan, You Must Be Certain of the Devil, The Sporting Life, All the Way.
Essential Songs: "The Litanies of Satan," "O Death," "Gloomy Sunday," "Burning Hell," "Wild Women with Steak Knives," "The Thrill Is Gone."
Influenced By: Patty Waters, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Robert Plant, Iannis Xenakis.
Influence On: Lydia Lunch, PJ Harvey, Björk, Anohni, Pharmakon.
Precautions: On this tour, Galás will perform pieces from her two new albums—All the Way (covers of jazz, country, and traditional songs) and the multilingual, death-song suite At Saint Thomas the Apostle Harlem—so don't shout requests for deep cuts from out-of-print records just to prove how cool you are. Seriously, don't.
Why You Should Give a Fuck: An uncommonly perceptive YouTube commenter called Galás the "H.R. Giger of music performance," and that nails it. Have the blues ever been this dark, this distended, this gripping, this grotesque? Doubtful.
It would be hard to pinpoint an artist who has interpreted so many standards in such extreme ways as this vocalist/pianist. But beyond revamping old, beloved songs to her own diabolical ends, Galás also has summoned (written is too prosaic a word) her own compositions, works that sound as far out and as abrasively abstract as anything by Iannis Xenakis, a fellow innovator of Greek descent who explored timbral abnormalities.
Galás's voice is a wind instrument of infernally beautiful power. Nevertheless, when the time comes to get conventionally operatic, she has the pipes to get the job done.
Know this: Diamanda Galás is one singer who'll never tackle the Turtles' "Happy Together."
In the Birthday Party's "Zoo-Music Girl," Nick Cave exclaims, "Oh, god, please let me die beneath her fists!" You can imagine that same thought running through the minds of Galás's most ardent fans. Because she is the type of anti-diva who projects that kind of merciless control over her audience—because she's the kind of severely extravagant entertainer who commands that kind of abject devotion. Friday's Neptune show is sold out. There will be blood.