Is it possible to not use the word ‘beautiful’ when describing Sarah McLachlan? First off, there’s her looks. Sarah McLachlan, with that head of dark brown ringlets, sleepy eyes and enchanting smile—well, she’s no slouch to look at. But she calls her own shots and paves her own way with a little more curves, a little less makeup, and casual, comfortable fashion in the face of her glittery, teenage pop-rock peers. There’s nothing pretentious about Sarah McLachlan, just like her songs that get to the heart of what you’ve always felt and meant to say, with a depth and layers that give each tune so many possibilities. She’s been a role model for this generation of women, living authentically and bravely, breaking rules on what’s cool by first reaching into Celtic roots when the world was hammering for Nine Inch Nails.
Walking onstage in a black camisole silk top and blue jeans, she looked impossibly gorgeous as she opened with “Fallen” followed by the timely “World on Fire.” Sarah and her seven band members played amidst the ghostly backdrop of a forest, giving a very Midsummer Night’s Dream feeling to the production.
“For once in my life I have more then enough material to pick songs,” she laughed, and then introduced one of her (and everyone’s) favorites, “Adia,” followed by “Hold On.”
Never forgetting her place in the new, gentle feminism that she alone has led since she started the Lilith Fair, she said, “A lot has happened since we’ve seen each other last. I had a baby a couple years ago, and she’s the greatest joy in our lives.” She went on to talk tales of woe over hormone fluctuations, postpartum depression and nursing, and that “my husband gets the shit end of the stick.” So, she said, she wrote him a love song, “and finally succeeded in writing a happy one,” the great song, “Push.”
The concert was a hit parade that kept going, with “I Will Remember You,” “Witness,” was played in front of kaleidoscope images of the band through the trees, and she stepped off to sides of the stage at different times in the show for intimate solos on acoustic guitar (stage right) or piano (stage left).
“Once in a blue moon, a song comes out easily,” she said. “Usually, it’s like extracting blood from a stone. So when the universe gives ‘em to me, I grab ‘em! These two songs are examples of those…” And then she launched into “Answer,” and “Angel.” The audience rose to their feet with the intense beauty of the song, “Fear”, a faster-tempoed “Building a Mystery,” and from then on, it was dancing in the aisles (where security would allow it).
For her first goodbye, she sang “Sweet Surrender,” saying, “You never know what to expect after being gone for so long. You’ve been fabulous!” Cell phones flashed, taking pictures everywhere of the grand exit. Sarah returned for a solo encore at the piano of her amazing song, “Possession.” A second encore brought her guitarist out to give us a couple goofy bars of Ted Nugent’s “Cat Scratch Fever” before the two of them sang a cover of the lovely Beatles’ song, “Blackbird.” A film in back gave some comic relief with the stage techs cutting wires and creating various concert disasters. “Every single night they do that, and it’s different every time!” Sarah laughed.
Next, the full band returned—the bass player donning a Blues jersey, for the irresistible, romantic tune, “Ice Cream,” “Stupid,” “Fumbling Towards Ecstasy” gave us a foggy staged finale for the last song of the last encore, “Dirty Little Secret.” Sarah McLachlan’s set was a solid two hours that it felt like minutes. Her music spans almost a decade now, and will likely last forever.
After first checking out her website, we were a little thrown off the track by opener, Butterfly Boucher (yes, Butterfly is her real name. And Boucher is pronounced like the word ‘ouch’—she’s an Aussie). With the site’s artwork and photos, NT expected an Ani Difranco-type or maybe a dykey feminist. Butterfly Boucher is neither. An irresistible combination of strength and sheer adorability, Butterfly was well-chosen to open for Sarah McLachlan, representing feminist strength and talent without anger and authentic, healthy sex appeal without the requisite fake breasts and over-blonde hair. She plays all the instruments on her album, sings like Dido with some fire under her ass, and has memorable, catchy songs that’ll stick in your head till next week. Her debut album, Flutterby [Nettwerk/Interscope] with standout tracks such as “Life is Short,” which the ABC drama, “The Days” picked up as their theme song, and “Never Leave Your Heart Alone.”
“That song in particular really wanted to get to know you,” teased Butterfly, “it really wanted to be bought. I know it sounds dodgy, but it’s really quite innocent…” Judging by the long line at the table to buy a signed CD, Boucher’s song certainly got its wish.