Lilith Fair returns as empowering as ever

A review of Lilith Fair featuring Sara McLachlan, Tegan & Sara and more at the Comcast Center on July 30, 2010

, Contributing Writer

Amidst soft ticket sales, cancellations, and major artists pulling out of the roster, the 2010 revival of the Lilith Fair has not exactly gone to plan. However, when Sarah McLachlan and company rolled through Massachusetts on Friday, everything seemed just fine with the resurrection of the famed Lilith Fair tour. The spirit of the Lilith Fair shone through at the Comcast Center and proved that even after an eleven-year hiatus, McLachlan knows how to bring together a group of talented ladies to celebrate the power of women in music.

In the headlining slot, of course, was McLachlan. After over six hours of music, she hit the stage amongst roaring approval from the crowd and opened with “Angel.” The song was beautiful and stirring, with McLachlan’s rich vocals complimenting the haunting piano melody. Following with one of the first singles that brought her to international prominence, “Building a Mystery”, the crowd was on their feet, dancing, singing, and clapping. The set was filled with fan favorites including “World on Fire”, “Stupid”, dark love ballad “Possession” and the heart-wrenching “I Will Remember You”. Even while performing these hits, many of which she has performed non-stop over the past two decades, she displayed a genuine smile on her face as if it was the first time she had ever performed the song. McLachlan really gave it her all during a performance that was larger than life, yet intimate and vulnerable.

Sprinkled in-between the hits were a few songs off of her new album, Laws of Illusion. The first new tune performed was the album’s lead single “Loving You is Easy,” an up-tempo tune which she described as a “fun and frothy love song.” The song was a delightful break from the much heavier songs that McLachlan performed throughout the set. She followed up with a few more new songs, including the lovely ballad “Forgiveness” and introspective “Illusions of Bliss”.

After leaving the stage for a few moments, McLachlan ran back on stage to deliver “Ice Cream”, a much appreciated encore during which the crowd sang every word, expressing their undying love and adulation for the singer before she graciously thanked the audience and exited the stage once again. McLachlan soon returned with all of the main stage acts (sans Cat Power) and their female band members to perform a high-energy rendition of Patti Smith’s classic “Because the Night”. Together they delivered an incredibly powerful moment, displaying the sense of togetherness and community that is the Lilith Fair.

Prior to McLachlan’s headlining set, the main stage belonged to her fellow Canadians, twin-sister duo Tegan & Sara. Opening with “The Oceans”, they quickly got the crowd back on their feet, where they would remain for the rest of their set. The fun dance groove of “Alligator” followed as the sisters traded in their guitars for keyboards. Tegan & Sara proved their undeniable chemistry on stage, showcasing their strong vocals and masterful harmonies, especially in the slower numbers like “Where does the Good Go?” and the beautiful and earnest “Nineteen”. The duo’s set also included fan favorites “Living Room” and “The Con”, during which Tegan powerfully commanded lead vocals.

Midway through their set, Tegan recalled their first time playing Lilith Fair eleven years ago, the last year before Lilith went on hiatus, and expressed their gratitude to be on that stage again representing such a groundbreaking and innovative event. Back then, they were just trying to make a name for themselves on the side stage. Now, the duo was a definite crowd favorite through their hour-long set, which ended with “Hop a Plane”.

Indie rocker Cat Power opened her set with “Good Woman”, a low-key folk ballad that introduced the audience to Power’s soft, breathy vocals and minimalist performance technique. However, Power may have taken the minimalist idea a bit too far, as she never made any attempt to engage or speak to the audience between numbers. In fact, she seemed downright uncomfortable on stage, awkwardly scooting back and forth during her songs and seeming as though she simply wanted to get through her set. While her exceptional voice was a treat to listen to, Power simply lacked the power to command the audience’s attention for her late main stage set.

Sara Bareilles, who played before Power, was the opposite. The piano-pop star surprisingly opened her set with her smash single “Love Song”. Bareilles’ powerhouse vocals and quirky charm got the crowd moving immediately, as she and her four-piece band delivered a string of fun numbers, a few of which she adequately described as “songs written to get over a douchebag.” Her vocals never faltered as she continuously delivered big notes and cheer-inducing riffs, all while maintaining a consistent smile. A very welcome surprise came when she performed her rendition of Beyonce’s inescapable “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)”, which excited the screaming crowd. Bareilles also took time to debut a few new tunes off of her forthcoming sophomore album Kaleidoscope Heart, including its lead single “King of Anything”. She closed her set with “Gravity”, a rich ballad which displayed Bareilles’ softer side.

The main stage opened with British folk singer-songwriter Beth Orton. Appearing on stage by herself and with nothing more than a single acoustic guitar, Orton opened her set with “Someone’s Daughter”. The simple yet irresistibly charming number showcased Orton’s bittersweet vocals and stripped-down style of performance. She followed with songs such as “Conceived”, “Sugar Boy” and “She Cries Your Name”. Her cover of the Five Stairsteps’ 1970 hit “Ooh Child” allowed Orton to inject some of her folk charm into a soul classic, and further exhibited her impeccable ability to perform a vulnerable one-woman set.

Earlier in the day, Zee Avi, Butterfly Boucher, Winterbloom, Missy Higgins, Serena Ryder, and Ann Atomic performed on the side stage.

Overall, the 2010 Lilith Fair revival did not disappoint. Filled with some familiar and not-so-familiar faces, Lilith offered an empowering message to women, and men, alike. As main stage act Sara Bareilles said, Lilith Fair is all about “rebirth and letting go.” The spirit of the show was infectious and showed a great deal of promise for Lilith’s future.

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