Concert: “An Evening with Sarah McLachlan”

I didn’t grow up in the United States, but we did get the European version of MTV. I was watching one afternoon and saw a special on summer concerts in the US, and one of the segments was about the Lilith Fair festival, which was created by Sarah McLachlan. Here was a music festival with all my favorite singers of the late 90’s: Tracy Chapman, Paula Cole, Fiona Apple, India.Arie, Natalie Merchant, Pat Benatar, Beth Orton, Morcheeba, The Cardigans, Suzanne Vega, Shawn Colvin, Jewel, Sheryl Crow, Chantal Kreviazuk, Bonnie Raitt, Diana Krall, Des’ree, Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, Liz Phair, Sinéad O’Connor, Anggun, Diana King, Dixie Chicks, Aimee Mann, Susan Tedeschi, Meredith Brooks, Sixpence None The Richer, and many many more. It was as if someone had raided my CD collection and all the mix-tapes I had made, and put together my dream lineup. All my favorite singers in one place at the same time (the only ones missing were Tori Amos, Ani DiFranco, and Alanis Morissette, but hey, nobody was complaining). It was heartbreaking to be so far away and know that I would never get to experience this amazing festival, especially when it was discontinued after the summer of 1999. I moved to the US in February of 2000. There was a brief comeback in the summer of 2010, but my luck being what it is, I was living in Asia at the time.

A few days ago, though, I was able to fulfill even the smallest of dreams to make up for never having attended Lilith Fair: I got to see Sarah McLachlan in concert. It was an incredible evening. The tour is primarily in support of McLachlan’s eighth album, Shine On, which came out last year. However, the show draws from all eight LPs, and is a great collection of hits and newer material. I wasn’t able to convince anyone to attend with me, so I went on my own, and still had a great time. Some singers are best not seen live, either because the music they make is so overproduced that it cannot be replicated without lip-syncing or because the singer is not very good, and singing live shows every flaw of the voice. Sarah McLachlan is the opposite: someone whose music I love to listen to, but who is even better live than she is recorded. Her voice is mesmerizing. She obviously does the ethereal and soft music she is best known for very well, but she also can infuse her voice with great strength, grit, and even achieve opera-esque levels of vocal acrobatics. She is restrained and never shows off, which is even more laudable since so many younger singers think that riffs and not holding a note for longer than a second constitutes good singing.

Sarah is also really personable and funny. She didn’t just sing her music, but she also added interesting information about some of the songs and interjected some of the set with jokes and jabs at her exes. Her asides were either touching or hilarious, but always relatable. I was also impressed and surprised by her musical ability. Obviously I knew she could play the piano well, but I didn’t know she could also play the acoustic and electric guitars, as well as the ukulele – switching between the four instruments throughout the two and a half hour concert (with no opening act, because when you’re Sarah McLachlan you don’t need one). The show started exactly on time, which added to my admiration and respect of her.

Let’s get to the actual songs. There were no tracks from her first two albums, Touch and Solace. All the songs she performed were from her newest LP, Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, Surfacing, Afterglow, and Laws of Illusion. Given that the holidays are upon us, Sarah sang one track from her holiday-themed album Wintersong. I am not the biggest fan of Christmas music, but when Sarah McLachlan is singing Joni Mitchell’s ‘River’, obviously I am willing to make an exception. The song was beautiful, and it was just her and a piano, her band was actually offstage during the performance. It was clear that some people were only passingly familiar with her music as some kept screaming for ‘Angel’ between songs. Casual fans were still appeased because along with her hit now synonymous with animal shelters, she also sang ‘I Will Remember You’, ‘Building a Mystery’, and other big hits from each album. My personal highlights from the concert were the performance of my favorite of her songs, ‘Adia’ (which is my most played track on iTunes), and the mesmerizing ‘Fear’ (watch her perform it live, you will not be sorry).

I had an amazing time and am so glad I got to see one of my favorite singers live for the first time. The concert was worth it and I will remember it for a really long time.

Concert Set List:

1. In Your Shoes
2. Building A Mystery
3. Adia
4. Answer
5. Broken Heart
6. Fallen
7. World On Fire
8. Loving You Is Easy
9. Monsters
10. Stupid
11. Song For My Father
12. I Will Remember You
13. Brink Of Destruction
14. Elsewhere
15. Hold On
16. Fumbling Towards Ecstasy
17. Witness
18. Fear
19. Sweet Surrender
20. Possession
21. Angel
22. Beautiful Girl
23. Ice Cream
24. The Sound That Love Makes
25. River

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