Live: McLachlan Fights For Lifebeat AIDS Organization

Singer vows never to play Paramount again after group was refused access.

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Sarah McLachlan interrupted a recent set at the

Paramount Theater to make a serious announcement. She seemed visibly angry

and concerned.

"It's World AIDS Day today," she said, and then explained to her audience

that the AIDS-awareness organization Lifebeat, which has been touring with

her this year since the first Lilith Fair dates, wasn't permitted to set up a booth

that night.

"Apparently the manager of [The Paramount] wouldn't let Lifebeat set up a

booth in their lobby," she continued, "Because he didn't want 'that kind of

element' in his theater. I just found out about it this afternoon. And I've

been pretty angry about it. He's an asshole."

The singer then vowed to never perform at the Paramount again.

Peter Botto, general manager of the Paramount, tells another story,

explaining that the request to have a Lifebeat booth was made at the last

minute and didn't give his staff enough time to plan for it. "We have

certain rules discouraging unrelated organizations from taking part in

events," he said Friday. "I first heard about the Lifebeat booth when some

guy called me up at 5 p.m. the day of the show. We didn't even know if it

was legitimate."

Botto said his staff prefer to make arrangements for such informational

booths at least a week in advance. "I think the time she spent making those

statements could have been better spent discussing the issue," he said.

McLachlan's camp, meanwhile, could not be reached for further comment on

the matter.

Despite the interruption, however, McLachlan's statements were bracketed by

a knockout show, the last on her current tour.

It began as the lights went out and the first bittersweet strains of

McLachlan's instrumental

"Last

Dance" (RealAudio excerpt) swelled through the dark theater. When

its final notes faded, an onstage curtain dropped away and McLachlan

herself, backed by a five-piece band, came to the microphone armed with an

acoustic guitar. She launched into her summer hit, "Building A Mystery."

The crowd shouted approval at lines such as "You woke up screaming aloud."

It was the last night of McLachlan's tour and the second of two nights at

the Paramount. Emotions ran high throughout the set as the hostess,

organizer and headliner of the much-hyped Lilith Fair seemed buoyed by the

chance to share her music on her own, with just her band and the crowd. "We

get to ride the emotional roller coaster a bit longer," she promised with a

smile.

Although recent fame from Lilith Fair has brought attention to her latest LP,

Surfacing, McLachlan's set included

songs from each of her four albums. The accompaniment of two guitarists, a

bassist, drummer and singer gave tender songs such as "Hold On" and "Good

Enough" an unexpected rock-feel and injected new life into them. "Good

Enough" even included a powerful guitar-solo by David Sinclair.

McLachlan took turns playing acoustic guitar and piano for much of the

night; and first sat down at the piano for "Do What You Have To Do" from

Surfacing. McLachlan's pained vocals, paired with her piano tones

that resonated through the luxurious venue, were in stark contrast to the

song's exploration of withheld emotions.

The band returned for "Witness," featuring the first of several

fantastically turbulent guitar-solos from Sean Ashby, who shook distorted

notes from his instrument. The lighting team made their mark with "Wait," a

twinkling backdrop of starry lights and slivers of white coming down like

moonlight, offering the perfect setting to the opening lines: "Under a

blackened sky/ Far beyond the glaring streetlights."

After performing "I Will Remember You," McLachlan's heartbreaking

contribution to the Brothers McMullen soundtrack, the singer

commented on the melancholy nature of her songs. "The more depressing the

song, the more I enjoy singing it," she laughed. "I'm not reliving the

horror or anything. I'm sort of grooving on where I am now."

The set continued with the spine-tingling "Ice," its intro a gorgeous a

cappella featuring McLachlan and backup vocalist Camille Henderson.

Keyboardist Vincent Jones added accordion touches before the song went into

full-swing. She followed with the breathy "I Love You" -- but not before a

woman in the crowd screamed "I love you Sarah!"

McLachlan also performed several songs from her first albums, including a

stirring version of "I Will Not Forget You" from Solace, as well as

"Path of Thorns (Terms)."

During "Into the Fire," her central refrain -- "I will stare at the sun

until its light doesn't blind me/ I will walk into the fire until its heat

doesn't burn me" -- was delivered nearly without instrumentation, its

powerful message inspiring more cheers from the crowd. She even performed

"Vox," her first single from Touch. Following McLachlan's and

Henderson's vocal harmonies in the soaring, wordless vocals of the chorus,

the crowd stood to applaud.

For her encore, McLachlan and her drummer and husband, Ash Sood,

performed "Ice Cream," singing its romantic refrains while smiling to one

another: "Your love is better than ice cream/ Better than anything else that

I've tried."

She let the audience to take over for one chorus. The night ended

with a candlelit performance of "Angel," (RealAudio excerpt), which found McLachlan alone at the piano again, as

she fittingly ended her tour with a song about the hardships of life on the

road. [Mon., Dec. 8, 1997, 9 a.m. PST]