As I stood in the bathroom line last night at Boston’s Blue Hall Banks Pavilion I did a tally in my head and realized that I was about to see Sarah McLachlan for the ninth time. The first time was also in Boston back in 1992 when she was touring for her second album “Solace.”
The reason I’ve stuck with McLachlan all these years is because she always put on a sensational live show.
Do I love everything’s she’s released since I first heard the sound of her voice at my college radio station about a hundred thousand years ago? In a word: No. But do I love enough of her music to always want to see her live? You already know the answer to that question.
McLachlan’s first three albums “Touch,” (1988), “Solace” (1991) and “Fumbling Towards Ecstasy” (1993) and about half of 1997’s “Surfacing” will always be sacred to me. Always. That is how much I love McLachlan as a songwriter and vocalist. She’s also an accomplished guitarist and pianist. She’s also incredibly charming, intelligent, kind and down-to-earth. Need evidence? Here’s the interview I did with her a couple of weeks ago in case you missed it:
This brings us to Saturday night, July 19 in Boston. First off, in case you were wondering why I didn’t go see her the night before in Bangor, it’s because that was the same night as Natalie Merchant’s show in Portland. However, Merchant had to postpone due to illness. But I already had plans to cover Boston so my friend Krista and I stuck with our plan and hit Beantown. I had already gotten word from a pal that the Bangor show was fantastic so my enthusiasm was off the chart before we even got out of Maine.
Krista and I took our seats, about 15 rows back from the stage and just after 8 p.m. as dusk started to turn the corner in darkness, Sarah McLachlan, 46, strode on stage wearing her signature smile and got down to business.
Lest I forget later, this is her current band:
Jon Evans in on bass guitar and backing vocals, Vincent Jones is on keys, piano and vocals, Curt Bisquera plays drums and Joel Shearer handles guitar and backing vocals.
McLachlan started the show off with “Flesh and Blood.” She still knows how to put pen to paper: “Desire is no cautious creature/insatiable like a raging fire/a heat is rising all around/my senses so alive.”
I looked over at my friend Krista and we shared a look that said “Yep, this is gonna be a killer show.”
But here’s the thing, after a couple of more songs that feeling started to grow a bit tepid. Did she sound great? Of course. But there was a certain je ne sais quoi missing. A spark. Something.
It all changed after the intermission.
The second half of she show was entirely enthralling and I got some of my old Sarah chills back. “Brink of Destruction” from her new album “Shine On” sucker punched me with emotion. But the real moment of the night for me came in the form of one of “Fumbling’s” finest moments: “Fear.” Her voice soared into another galaxy and the song is fraught with vulnerability and disquietude. “But I fear, I have nothing to give, I have so much to lose here in this lonely place, tangled up in our embrace, there’s nothing better than to fall…” I had a moment. Several even. Two songs later, McLachlan hit us again with the title track from “Fumbling” and I still have the chills thinking about it. And even all these years later, “Possesion” hasn’t lost it’s intensity. Nor has “Hold On.”
The other thing that made the second set so much better, for me at least, was that the band came to life. I mean they were fine in the first set. But just fine. The second set however they were explosive and dynamic and well…”on.”
Twice during the show, McLachlan invited contest winners to join her on the side of the stage in a living room area where she chatted with them for a few minutes, indulged them with selfies and answered questions. While this may sound silly, I assure you it was entirely delightful and actually really funny. McLachlan also answered fan-submitted questions drwan out a a hat. One person had asked what she would be doing if she wasn’t a musician. Somehow I wasn’t surprised to hear her say chocolatier.
Let’s talk about the encores. She came back on stage wearing a black “Boston Strong” t-shirt, sat at her grand piano and sang the always gorgeous (albeit overplayed on the radio) “Angel.” Next up was the new one “Beautiful Girl” and a sing-along to Fumbling’s “Ice Cream.” (the one song on that album I kinda can’t listen to anymore.”
McLachlan closed out the night with her ukelele and another new song called “The Sound That Love Makes.”
Well done, Sarah McLachlan. I’m digging the new songs from “Shine On” and appreciated hearing many of them last night. But extra deluxe thanks for playing five songs from “Fumbling Towards Ecstasy.”
You kill me. And I love you for it.
Here’s the entire setlist for you hardcore fans:
1. “Flesh and Blood”
2. “Building a Mystery”
3. “In Your Shoes”
6. “Broken Heart”
8. “World on Fire”
9. “Loving You is Easy”
12. “Song For My Father”
13. “I Will Remember You”
14. “Brink of Destruction”
15. “Hold On”
16. “Love Beside Me”
17. “Fear” !!!!!!
19. “Fumbling Towards Ecstasy”
20. “Sweet Surrender”
23. “Beautiful Girl”
24. “Ice Cream”
25. “The Sound That Love Makes”