It's a shame that singer/ songwriter Sarah McLachlan has decided that
this summer's Lilith Fair will be the last. These two CDs provide proof that
Lilith has managed to transcend the formulaic drudgery of the past two
years' testosterone-fueled summer concert circuit.
The 28 songs chosen from 1998's live performances roam all over the
geographic and aural map, ranging from Berlin-born Me'Shell Ndegeocello's
ebullient paean to '70s soul (aptly titled "Soul Record") to the U.K.
trip-hop combo Morcheeba's psychedelic groove, "The Sea." Listening to songs
like these, it's easy to picture a sea of grrls turned toward the stage,
swaying in unison under the midday sun.
Lilith Fair was designed to give female artists more exposure in a
male-dominated music industry. It worked beautifully, managing to out-gross
both Lollapalooza and H.O.R.D.E. But McLachlan announced in late April that
the end is in sight. "We always had a three-year plan right from the start,
and this is going to be the last year in North America for a good long
while," McLachlan said. "It comes from realizing that we're all well into
our '30s, and some of us want to have babies."
Babies aside, Lilith seemed to offer concertgoers a genuine sense of
community, at least for one day. Hey, that's a better return than usual on
one's concert dollar, and by the evidence here, the music alone was worth
the price of admission. Luscious Jackson's "Naked Eye"
(RealAudio excerpt) skitters and dips, evoking a groovy mood with the
insistent chorus, "It feels all right/ It feels all right." Less successful
is Natalie Merchant's cover of "In the
Ghetto"; but, to be fair, the song's lyrics are so ridiculous and
overwrought that even Elvis couldn't pull them off.
Lisa Loeb's performance of "I Do" is casual to the point of lethargy. Better
is Liz Phair's "Never Said"
(RealAudio excerpt), in which the singer comes across like your cool
big sister who's home from college and showing off her newfound grown-up skills. Tracy Bonham's "Meat Hook" is a welcome, raucous interlude, while the Cowboy Junkies' "Miles From Our Home" is pleasant, if unchallenging.
Less successful efforts include Rebekah's "Little Black Girl" -- with
labored lyrics like "It's a minor miracle just to make the graduation when
no one in your world gives you a hint of validation" -- and the instantly
forgettable "Kiss Me" from Sixpence None the Richer. The latter tune
seems ideally suited for a bathroom/ beer break.
But there are transcendent moments scattered throughout, notably Queen
Latifah's uplifting "Life"
(RealAudio excerpt) and McLachlan's duet with Emmylou Harris on the
spine-tingling "Angel." Holly McFarland's "Elmo" is a rousing rocker and
N'Dea Davenport's rendition of "Underneath a Red Moon" is smoothly
satisfying, thanks mainly to the thick honey of her voice.
After awhile, the female voices here all start to blur into one, but on the
whole, this chronicle of the Lilith Fair is both a worthy souvenir for those
who were there and a snapshot of the event for those who missed it.