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Concert Reviews:
Empty Seats Don't Dampen Lilith Fair Spirit At DTE

of the Oakland Press

Posted: Thursday, July 22, 2010

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INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- The box office woes plaguing Sarah McLachlan's resumed Lilith Fair tour were glaringly evident on Wednesday (July 21) at the DTE Energy Music Theatre.

Half the amphitheater -- at best -- was filled on a sun-splashed afternoon and evening for a female-focused package that during the late '90s sold out multiple nights there. Blame that on a) the economy, b) a lineup that was perhaps too varied for its own good and, c) McLachlan's leveled-off commercial stature.

But just as evident -- the artistic virtues that made and continue to make Lilith one of the richest and bravest shows on the road.

On Wednesday it reminded the kindler, gentler alternative to festival tours that tend to run much louder and more raucous. There was no moshing at Lilith Fair 2010; instead those who came -- and, yes, there were guys, too -- were able to fill their pockets with free samples of nutrition bars, drink mixes and hygiene products and check out the assorted pro-social organizations that Lilith supports. During an early evening press conference McLachlan also present a check for $6,284 to Alternatives For Girls, a non-profit that serves the homeless and at-risk.

Doesn't sound like OZZFest, does it?

Neither did the music. That diversity that hurt Lilith's ticket sales is, ironically, what makes it such a great day of music, housing a range from the sophisticated pop of McLachlan, Suzanne Vega and Chantal Kreviazuk to the rowdy country energy of Miranda Lambert, the genre-straddling smoothness of Court Yard Hounds (led by Dixie Chicks Emily Robison and Martie Maguire) and the brash, cheeky 'tude of Britain's Kate Nash -- who, truth be told, seemed none too happy with having been bumped from Lilith's main stage to one of the secondary sites on her final day with the tour. And any notion that women can't rock was certainly dispelled throughout the day, whether it was Nash declaring that they don't have to proffer sexual favors to "succeed" to Vega and her drum-less trio playing jagged renditions of "Blood Makes Noise" and "Left of Center" or Lambert and her band kicking hard through covers of the Faces' "Stay With Me" and Joan Jett's "I Love Rock and Roll" as well as her own "Kerosene," "White Liar" and "Gunpowder & Lead."

Like most festivals, Lilith had its share of special moments. McLachlan and Kreviazuk joined Melissa McLelland -- who's also in McLachlan's band -- on one of the second stages for a set-closing "Passenger 24." McLelland and McLachlan then sang with Kreviazuk at the end of her main stage performance. Vega offered an affecting rendition of "The Man Who Played God," which she sang on the new Sparklehorse/Danger Mouse collaboration "Dark Night of the Soul," while Court Yard Hounds covered Joni Mitchell's "This Flight Tonight" before getting the biggest ovation of their set for "Lil' Jack Slade," an instrumental from the Dixie Chicks' "Home Album."

The Hounds also had a special moment with an exuberant male fan who bought the duo some sort of green drink concoction from the DTE bar -- in exchange for backstage passes.

McLachlan -- promoting "Laws of Illusion," her first new album in seven years -- showed her headlining chops are still intact, and maybe even more potent than they've been in years. Clearly invigorated by the new material, a retooled band and the resumption of her beloved Lilith Fair, the Canadian songstress was in fine voice and energetic during an hour-long set that started with her smash ballad "Angel" and included hits such as "Building a Mystery," "World on Fire," "Adia," "Sweet Surrender" and "Possession." She played three new songs, including the singles "Loving You Is Easy" and "Forgiveness," and brought the other artists out to close the day with the Bruce Springsteen/Patti Smith anthem "Because the Night" -- a nod to the Lilith prototype date that played DTE in 1996 and included Smith.

McLachlan also promised that, despite this year's sluggish sales, Lilith will return in 2011, perhaps in a smaller configuration. After Wednesday's show, here's hoping the metro area makes the cut for that.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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