k.d. lang Concert to Expand Center's Horizons

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Pop singer k.d. lang will play the Orange County Performing Arts Center on April 12, a rare engagement for a concert hall that has been slow to embrace pop as part of its regular repertoire.

The critically acclaimed, Grammy-winning Canadian singer ranges stylistically from country to rock to R&B; and languid pop balladry. She joins Art Garfunkel, who played in 1993, and Ray Charles, who appeared in 1994, as the only pop acts that the center's own management has booked into the 3,000-seat hall.

Others, including Chet Atkins and James Taylor, have appeared at the center as guests of the Pacific Symphony, and Johnny Cash performed in 1988 in a show booked by an outside promoter.

The k.d. lang concert is part of an effort to raise the center's pop profile, spokesman Greg Patterson said.

"It is something [center president] Tom Tomlinson wants to do more of," he said. "I think you will see some additional one-night pop and country [bookings] that cover every age range and musical interest. It's an area that we're starting to do more of, and we will do more of in the future."

The center's previous president, Thomas R. Kendrick, who served from 1986 to 1993, didn't formally exclude pop music (the Garfunkel show was booked near the end of his tenure), but he maintained that the privately funded concert hall simply didn't have enough open dates to accommodate pop attractions in addition to the classical music, opera, ballet and Broadway road shows that the center was built to house.

Finding dates for pop still is not easy, given the center's other priorities, Patterson said. But the center will try to fit it in more often: "The schedule is still crowded, and it is often difficult to find an available date on a night the artist is available. Sometimes you luck out, and we did with k.d. lang."

Artist lang, who played last month at the Universal Amphitheatre, has been touring with a six-piece band and two backup singers.

The Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, which draws ticket buyers from nearby Orange County, has successfully mixed a regular schedule of pop concerts with classical and theatrical programming since its opening in 1993.

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Absent OCPAC, pop acts that figure to draw more than 2,000 but fewer than 5,000 fans have no proper, proscenium theater to turn to in Orange County. The Freedman Forum Concert Theatre in Anaheim can seat 2,500, but its in-the-round layout isn't acceptable to some performers. The 2,000-capacity Crawford Hall at UC Irvine is an echo-ridden gymnasium used primarily for alternative-rock shows.

Tickets for lang's show range from $28 to $46 and go on sale March 17 at 10 a.m. at the center box office or by phone through Ticketmaster, (714) 740-2000.

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