Sarah McLachlan Pumps Up Energy With Live Album

Singer/songwriter says recordings on Mirrorball capture what was missing from studio LPs.

Sarah McLachlan sighed ever so slightly before speaking.

She'd just been asked whether her new live album, Mirrorball,

contained any overdubs — splashes of sonic touch-up paint that

some people say correct errors for posterity, while purists argue they

mar the integrity of a truly live work.

McLachlan admitted some cosmetic surgery had taken place on the tapes.

"There were a few places that there was a note that was flat," she said Thursday from the garden at her home in Vancouver, British Columbia. "So I just sang that one note [again] and stuck it in there. Technology's amazing. But there's very few fix-ups, which I'm proud to say."

McLachlan's loyal fanbase apparently cares nary a whit about such details. Since the album — which documents a 1998 tour — was released June 15, it has sold more than 367,000 copies in the United States. In its second week on the Billboard 200 albums chart, it sits at #6, down just a few notches from its #3 debut.

At 10:30 a.m. McLachlan said she was still in her pajamas. She laughed easily, and lamented that recent steady rains had caused the roses in her garden to wilt.

It was a bit of relaxed downtime before the Lilith Fair — the popular, female-centered tour she founded two years ago — kicks off its third and final run in Vancouver on July 8.

The Vancouver show will include sets by McLachlan, singer/songwriter Sheryl Crow, R&B singer Mya, funk-pop band Luscious Jackson, folk singer Beth Orton and others. At various stops on the 40-date tour, McLachlan will be joined by hard rockers Hole, rapper Queen Latifah, singer/songwriter Liz Phair and many more performers.

McLachlan said now is the right time to revisit older songs such as

"Ice Cream" (from 1994's Fumbling Towards Ecstasy) and hits such

as "Building a Mystery" (RealAudio excerpt of live version) from the Grammy-winning Surfacing (1997), particularly since she doesn't plan to make a new studio album for another couple years.

The 31-year-old native Canadian said she was especially happy with the way the concert version of "I Will Remember You" (RealAudio excerpt of live version) captures an emotional energy she described as absent from the original take (on the 1995 soundtrack to "The Brothers McMullen").

"My studio albums tend to be quite mellow, even in the rocking songs," she said. "The quality of the sound is quite gentle. Live, there's a lot more energy. There's an audience. You have to play and entertain them. So you tend to be a little more animated in your performance."

There are more than just artistic motives behind Mirrorball, McLachlan manager Terry McBride said.

Since she released her first album, Touch, in 1988, McLachlan has

cultivated a dedicated legion of fans with her lilting songs about

relationships and their tidal shifts.

Some of McLachlan's fans, who made Surfacing platinum six times

over in the U.S. and elevated the Lilith Fair to the position of

highest-grossing summer rock festival for two years running, also are

willing to seek expensive bootleg recordings of her performances —

for which she receives no royalties and has no say in the product. Hence,

Mirrorball,along with the May release of Volume 2 and

3 of the live Lilith Fair: A Celebration of Women in Music,

which feature recordings of McLachlan and other artists from past tours.

"If you don't have anything live out there, it becomes a marketplace for inferior products," McBride said from his Vancouver office.

McBride credited the issue of two tracks — "Building a Mystery" and "I Will Remember You" — as free, downloadable songs through online retailer Amazon.com with driving the site's pre-release sales of Mirrorball to more than 10,000 copies. Amazon.com spokesperson Paul Capelli would not confirm sales figures, citing company policy.

But at least one traditional retailer found a few customers confused by the album. "A lot of people didn't realize that it was a live album," said Lorraine Blatt, a staffer at Vancouver's HMV Records, which has sold more than 200 copies of the disc. "But it's doing quite well. It's Sarah McLachlan, after all."

Marketing tactics and counteracting bootlegs are typically the stuff of a manager's business calculations, but McLachlan herself knows how to be organized and analytical. The songs on Mirrorball were culled from more than three dozen 1998 concerts, all of which contained the same 24-song set.

But back in her garden, McLachlan emphasized intuition, trying to find songs with the appropriate "feel." The album offers no detail about the place and date of its recordings, which McLachlan said was intended to foster a sense of a whole piece rather than a compilation. McLachlan said she insisted on taping each night of her tour so that she could do her best to forget she was recording at all.

"I didn't even think that we were recording," she said. "I can't, it puts such a weird spin on it. ... We just forgot about it and did our thing."