After strapping on an uncharacteristic Fender to open up her highly anticipated summertime appearance at Artpark, Canadian songstress Sarah McLachlan assured her audience that, along with new numbers and her occasional electric cameo, they’d share in the same three elements that had kept them together for decades.
“That’s the gist of the show tonight: just music, connecting and love.”
And she delivered those in abundance, touring through an interactive night of emotional ballads, empowering tracks and odes to relationships – both hers and her audience’s – over an epic double-set and encore to the delight of Monday’s amphitheater crowd.
McLachlan first established herself as equally complementary to Generation X-era romance and heartbreak. Flannel-clad nights spooning with your college mate may have been backed by her angelic vocals, comparing love to ice cream. Lazy winter afternoons of embracing through Ed Burns dialogue might have ended with her promises of remembrance. And when the aforementioned relationship(s) fizzled, you were likely left on your darkened dorm room floor, curled in the fetal position and sobbing like a baby as you rotated those previous songs on repeat.
But in a recent interview with Elle magazine, McLachlan said that, during a four-year break from recording between 2010’s “Laws of Illusion” and May release “Shine On,” she became bored with penning the same break-up songs, the ones that serenaded the streaming tears of untold legions of young adults.
“I’m like, I don’t want to keep writing the same songs. I’m done with that. I want to do something different,”
Different, sure – But we’re still talking Sarah McLachlan. It’s not like her new album and accompanying tour would consist of sweaty EDM tracks, pyrotechnics and provocative use of a foam finger. Her multi-platinum career has thrived off the piano and acoustic-aided emotional connections – both positive and torturous – she’s formed with her audience, whether in person or via personalized mix CD.
In front of Monday night’s Lewiston crowd, the Lilith Fair maven didn’t stray from those historical strengths. Over nearly three hours, she revisited and celebrated them while introducing newer material not meant to solely soundtrack the opposite sides of love.
Set up on a cozy couch and Oriental rug-accented stage, the still-striking McLachlan introduced the capacity crowd to a stop on her current deviation with the full-band storm of “Flesh and Blood” before easing them back into territory as comfortable as her living room surroundings. On three of her next four tracks – favorites “Building A Mystery,” “Adia” and the gorgeous, pleading “Answer” – the Nova Scotia native stoked the night’s first recollections for fans ready to reminisce, whether with gritted teeth or a loving glance at their concert date as familiar lyrics circled. Each song was accented by that same siren call, the same beautiful yodel that’s pulled in fans across generations. And if the voice didn’t infiltrate, her gazes did, finding piano notes while locking in on various attendees like she was singing directly to them.
This type of connectivity was the order of the evening. Whether through her brown-eyed looks, familiar songs (like “Fallen,” “Sweet Surrender” and tear-jerking encore offering “Angel”) or actually bringing crowd members on stage to sit on its couches, spontaneously wail out the opening lines of “Hold On” and, yes, take the requisite selfies, McLachlan served dutifully throughout her two sets and encore.
And through it all, she was also able to familiarize her loyalists with stellar “Shine On” tracks like the string-backed “In Your Shoes,” her personal “Song For My Father” and the morality-investigating “Monster,” a nod to some of the black-hearted men her songs helped women forget.
“They’re a blessing, those jerks,” said McLachlan. “But wouldn’t life be boring if we didn’t have them?”