NEW YORK -- Singer/songwriter Sarah McLachlan treated New Yorkers to a Lilith Fair '98 preview Monday night, performing and playing host to a handful of young new bands.
An estimated 9,000 people filled Manhattan's midtown Bryant Park to hear songs by Sarah McLachlan, local band Antigone Rising, folk-rocker Eden White and rocker Rebekah.
The five-member, all-girl band Antigone Rising and the folksy White and her band were among the winners of the Levi's/Lilith Fair Acoustic Talent Search and were picked from 20 local New York bands. White and Antigone Rising will play again when Lilith Fair comes to Jones Beach for two dates this summer -- White will perform at the July 15 concert and Antigone Rising will perform at the July 16 concert.
The Levi's/Lilith Fair Acoustic Talent Search was held in 14 different cities across the country, with bands battling it out for a chance to perform as the opening act on the popular tour's Village Stage -- the stage dedicated to talented new acts -- when the Lilith Fair plays in their locale. Because there are two Lilith Fair Jones Beach dates, two bands were chosen.
The 48-state tour has its official kick-off on June 19 in Portland, Ore., and ends on August 31 in Vancouver, British Columbia.
While last night's concert drew thousands of Sarah McLachlan fans, some holding signs and flowers, the Lilith Fair-founder was quick to acknowledge her supporting cast -- the bands who warmed up for her.
"I'm glad to give young people who have a lot of talent but don't have a large platform, a platform," McLachlan told the crowd.
Wearing a jean jacket embroidered with the Lilith Fair logo -- a circle formed by the words Spirit, Power, Music -- McLachlan stood near the edge of the stage with friend and Miami club-owner Ingrid Casares, watching as Antigone Rising stirred up the crowd with songs off their self-released album, She's Gone a Little Mad, including the folksy "Secrets." White played keyboard and sang songs off her upcoming album. Rocker Rebekah covered the Rolling Stones' "Get Off of My Cloud" and played songs off her own album, Remember to Breathe.
Finally, taking the stage to thunderous applause from fans, some of whom had arrived at the park at 1:00 p.m. to secure spots, McLachlan seated herself at the piano and played "Aida," "Building a Mystery" (RealAudio excerpt) and "Sweet Surrender" (RealAudio excerpt) off her latest album, Surfacing, as well as the crowd-pleasing hit "Possession."
Last summer's inaugural Lilith Fair took many by surprise when it became the most successful summer package-tour, surpassing the veteran tours Lollapalooza and H.O.R.D.E. (Horizons of Rock Developing Everywhere) and raising more than $700,000 for charities. This year's Lilith Fair features 57 shows -- 20 more than last year -- and an impressive roster that includes Shawn Colvin, Morcheeba, Queen Latifah, Beth Orton, Meredith Brooks, Bonnie Raitt, Lauryn Hill of the Fugees and Erykah Badu.
Lilith Fair has drawn noticeably big corporate-sponsors in its second season. Starbucks, Volkswagen and Tower Records are all taking part. Last year's big backers included Nine West and Biore.
Recently, a huge billboard of Sarah McLachlan was placed in Times Square among larger-than-life images of models, towering movie posters and Broadway's shimmering lights. The billboard is part of the partnership between Lilith Fair and Levi's, which is sponsoring the concert's Village Stage attraction. Last night's performance raised $8,000 to benefit the West End Intergenerational Shelter, a women's shelter located in New York City.
Judging from some of the performers' faces at Monday's Bryant Park event, the newcomers may have had the best time of all.
"This is amazing," said Karrie Flannagan, White's backup vocalist, speaking after the band had played. "And it's so surreal -- I was playing and I looked over and there was Sarah McLachlan dancing on the side of the stage."
Angel Arcaro, lead vocalist for Antigone Rising, agreed that this kind of all-women, positive-vibe concert was uniquely exciting. "I've never done anything like this," she said of her band's performance. "It was outrageous to play in front of so many people."
Two young fans -- Dana Wagner, 19, who'd come from Philadelphia, and Matt Harker, who'd traveled from Dover, Del., and who are part of the Sarah McLachlan fan group Fumblers -- said that they wished they'd heard more songs from McLachlan but that they enjoyed hearing the new bands.
"I liked Eden White," Harker said. "She sounded a little like Alanis Morissette."
"Antigone Rising was cool," Wagner added. "I'm going to get their CD tomorrow morning."