Pictures of Lilith, Part 2: Tour Review
Lilith co-founder and headliner Sarah McLachlan has taken some heat this summer after dealing with numerous cancellations that will force the heralded return of the her “celebration of women in music” to end two weeks earlier than planned. In Part 1, McLachlan addresses some of the problems. Part 2 of this two-part Lilith series takes a look at one of the recent shows.
1. Commercial Appeal
Multi-talented, charismatic and chatty singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson made the most of her 40-minute appearance on the main stage. Wearing a polka-dotted red top and short black skirt, she played ukulele and piano, and referenced Vanilla Ice and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air during a bouncy rap heading into her signature hit “The Way I Am,” saying, “You play something 800 times, you have to change it up.” She also covered Britney Spears’ “Toxic,” busting a few choreographed moves with her band that included female guitarists Allie Moss and Bess Rogers. Known for supplying catchy soundtracks for Grey’s Anatomy and in Old Navy commercials, the New Yorker doesn’t lack in confidence: “My live shows are a big thing,” she said during a pre-show press conference. “I have, like, a chip on my shoulder. I’m not just a girl that helps make a sweater look good on a beautiful supermodel. I also can play with the best of them.”
2. Shel of a Good Time
Four sisters from Fort Collins, Colorado collectively known as Shel – Sarah, Hannah, Eva and Liza Holbrook – got to perform in their home state after the Lilith stop in Austin, Texas, where they were scheduled to play, was canceled. They seemed the happiest to be here, posing for pictures with fans in the stands, dancing in the aisles off Section 102 while Emmylou Harris covered Bill Monroe’s “Get Up John” and executing well-rehearsed moves at the back of the stage during the all-but-the-kitchen sink finale on the main stage. Their enthusiasm alone should take them a long way.
3. And Now a Word From Our Network
ABC television is one of Lilith’s sponsors, but that should be no reason to force a crowd waiting for Emmylou to “watch” one of its new prime-time comedies, Better With You, annoying laugh track included. Considering it was still light outside at 8 p.m. and the image on the video screens on both sides of the stage couldn’t be seen, they might as well have been playing The Invisible Man.
4. Yo, Canada
Cameron Diaz-lookalike and daring, darling Metric frontwoman Emily Haines was a whirling (and alluring) dervish onstage, providing a burst of energy with springy dance moves, punk sensibilities, indie cred and those silvery hot pants during a captivating 40-minute set. Hailing from Toronto, along with husband and lead guitarist Jimmy Shaw, she acknowledged the fan waving a Canadian flag and presented “an ode to another amazing Canadian musician – that’s Neil Young,” urging the crowd to “Feel the Neil.” After borrowing a few lines from Young’s “My My, Hey Hey,” Haines and her three hard-rocking bandmates tore into “Gimme Sympathy” from Fantasies, which asks the musical question, “Who would you rather be – the Beatles or the Rolling Stones?”
5. Out of the Mouths of Babes
Sarah McLachlan, a divorced mother of two, realizes she takes a back seat to more “age-appropriate” performers when it comes to her kids. “They’re sick to death of the new album,” she said of Laws of Illusion, her first studio release in seven years that dropped June 15. With 8- and 3-year-old daughters, she’s resigned to the fact that they prefer Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus.
6. No Social (Networking) Butterfly
Don’t expect to find Emmylou Harris (above left with McLachlan) on social media sites such as Facebook anytime soon. I don’t even know how to pull up YouTube,” she admitted. “Somebody did make me look at a wonderful thing called Attila Kitty. That’s as far as I’ve gotten. It’s actually called Attila Fluff, sorry.”
7. Letter Imperfect
You can’t tell the players without a scorecard, and it was frustrating that the Lilith website kept any would-be ticket buyers in the dark by failing to provide its concert itinerary on the day of the show. When it was finally revealed at the amphitheatre box office, Erin McCarley’s name was misspelled ERIN “MCCLAREY.” And speaking of letters, the neon Lilith sign prominently displayed above the stage wasn’t shining part of the capital “L” and the first “i,” likely sending curious concertgoers to track down Pat Sajak in their quest to buy a vowel.
8. Heat of the Moment
The 98 degree temperatures and the mile-high altitude, or a combination of both, seemed to take their toll on Harris, whose divine but delicate vocals had trouble competing with a few thoughtless and inattentive spectators. She nonetheless persevered through a 40-minute, 10-song set of standards from her 40-year career that included “Here I Am,” “Orphan Girl,” “O Evangeline,” “Born to Run,” “Michelangelo” and “Going Back to Harlan.” But in performing Kate McGarrigle’s “Talk to Me of Mendocino,” her heartfelt tribute to the Canadian folk-singing sister (and mother of Martha and Rufus Wainwright) who passed away in January after a “valiant three-year fight with cancer,” she brought a touching authenticity to the proceedings. By the time Harris and two talented members of her Red Dirt Boys backing band – Phil Madeira and Rickie Simpkins – wrapped up a lovely a cappella version of “Bright Morning Stars,” she had everyone’s undivided attention.
9. Sarah Smiles
It’s been a rough couple of weeks (months?) for McLachlan, but it didn’t show when she hit the stage a few minutes ahead of her scheduled 9:30 start. Mixing old (starting on grand piano for the incredibly harmonious “Angel” duet with Harris, “Building a Mystery,” “Adia,” “Sweet Surrender”) with new (“Loving You Is Easy,” “Forgiveness” and “Illusions of Bliss”), she smiled continuously while flashing those big, beautiful, brown eyes. Apparently taking Harris’ advice to heart, McLachlan stuck to wearing basic black, from a frilly smock to some badass motorcycle boots. She seemed more relaxed than ever on stage, bumping and grinding with backup singers Melissa McClelland and Butterfly Boucher and interacting with guitarists Luke Doucet (McClelland’s husband) and Peter Stroud. Drummer Matt Chamberlain and keyboardist Vincent Jones rounded out a band that rocked harder than many of her previous configurations. “This is where I feel so happy and so complete. I love singing and I love singing for you,” she said, before closing her 12-song, 50-minute set with “Possession,” the glorious breakout hit from 1993’s Fumbling Towards Ecstacy, and the whimsical “Ice Cream.”
10. The “Night” Belongs to Us
The rousing encore of Patti Smith’s “Because the Night” included most of the day’s performers, although Metric was conspicuous by their absence. Michaelson (between Bess Rogers, left, and McLachlan), Harris and a soulful Boucher, an impressive performer who (deservedly so) gets her own spot on the tour in late July, took turns singing lead. McLachlan whirled and twirled as the head cheerleader of a fist-pumping group that also included Shel in the back, Liz Clark, Rosie Thomas and members of Michaelson’s band on her right, and McCarley and Anjulie on her left. It was more than enough to make smitten sweethearts say, “Let’s do it again, but consider a more intimate, less extravagant setting (that doesn’t charge 8 bucks a beer).”