Best Of '99: Pretenders, Sarah McLachlan — And Some Men — Play Lilith

Sheryl Crow, Luscious Jackson share a stage.

[Editor's note: Over the holiday season, SonicNet is looking back at 1999's top stories, chosen by our editors and writers. This story originally ran on Wednesday, July 14.]

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — On what is being billed as its final go-round,

the Lilith Fair tour is proving to be not just for women anymore.

The tour, headlined by Lilith founder Sarah McLachlan, rock singer/songwriter Sheryl

Crow and rock veterans the Pretenders — on their first U.S. outing in two years

— drew more male fans than in years past to the Shoreline Amphitheatre on

Tuesday, and found several female singers fronting mostly male bands.

Pretenders frontwoman Chrissie Hynde took a stab at men in general during her band's

hit-filled set — "What do you call that useless bit of skin on the end of a penis? It's

called 'a man.' " — but the jabs went both ways over the course of the day.

Comedian Sandra Bernhard knocked two of the most popular women rockers, Alanis

Morissette and Jewel, calling for a return of female hard-rock role models in the mold of

Joan Jett and Heart. "I mean, will somebody please give me an old-fashioned, slutty,

big-ti--ed bitch of rock 'n' roll?" Bernhard quipped.

Even some concert-goers got into the act. Ron Pardini, 47, of Fremont, brought his wife

and two daughters to the family's first Lilith Fair. "I've got a house full of women; I might

as well be surrounded by 'em here, too," he said.

Daughter Sophia, 11, said she was looking forward to seeing McLachlan, but added that

it was "kind of sad" that this would be the festival's last year.

At a preshow press conference, McLachlan explained why she intends to stop the tour

after three years. "I want my life back," she said. "I want to be a musician again, I want to

be a songwriter again, and I want to have babies," the recently married singer/songwriter


The bill ranged from Beth Orton's folk to Luscious Jackson's funk, from the old-school

rock of the Pretenders to the top-40 pop of Mya. McLachlan, Crow and the Pretenders

were the mainstage favorites, while Orton and pop band Sixpence None the Richer

— currently enjoying airplay with "Kiss Me" — drew the biggest crowds on a

smaller stage just outside the amphitheater.

The artists cross-pollinated freely. Crow joined Luscious Jackson for a version of their

"Naked Eye," and they in turn joined her for a version of the Who's "Squeeze Box," with

Crow playing an accordion. McLachlan's percussionist, Ashwin Sood, and pop-punker

Bijou Phillips jumped on the main stage whenever possible. Most of the artists —

with the notable exception of Hynde — joined McLachlan to end the show with

Jackie DeShannon's 1969 hit "Put a Little Love in Your Heart."

While the feeling in the air was amiable, Hynde poked fun at the current crop of women

rock stars during the Pretenders' set, singing "Don't make 'em like they used to/ Should

have stuck with me."

Rocking in full force, the Pretenders played a few new songs from Viva el Amor

and ran the gamut of their hits, including "Message of Love," "My City Was Gone,"

"Middle of the Road" and "Back on the Chain Gang" (RealAudio excerpt).

After a midsong breakdown in "Don't Get Me Wrong" that led to a

lounge-y ragtime sendup of the chorus, Hynde, in a gold lamé jacket, stopped to

goad the audience, saying, "You don't have to take that kind of sh--. ... Be real."

Crow — backed by an all-male band — turned up the light show, morphing

Lilith into a full-throttle rock concert. She paced the stage in tight leather pants and

sported the short, dyed blond hairdo also popular with Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder and

Red Hot Chili Pepper Anthony Kiedis. She switched between guitar and bass as she

played such songs as "Change" and "My Favorite Mistake" (RealAudio excerpt), bringing

up a cellist and violinist for a moment of tripped-out intensity.

McLachlan began her set on a grand piano with the instrumental "Last Dance." Focusing

on love ballads, she sang the crowd favorites "Sweet Surrender" (

HREF=",_Sarah/Sweet_Surrender.ram">RealAudio excerpt) and "Ice

Cream," fusing her tremolo vocals with techno-flavored rhythms and glassy slide and

pedal-steel work by guitarist Sean Ashby. McLachlan sang "Angel" alone, again on

grand piano, and was joined by her tourmates for "Put a Little Love in Your Heart,"

trading verses with Luscious Jackson's Gabrielle Glaser, Crow and members of the

Australian group Eden AKA.

Earlier in the day, the smaller stage hosted six acts of various styles.

Local talent-search winner Deborah Pardes presented a set of folk tunes cut with a dose

of swing. Phillips picked up the pace as the crowd grew, ordering the audience to get up

and dance.

Swedish singer Tekla, looking like the physical embodiment of Lilith in long, flowing

brown hair and an Indian print dress, said, "This is the first time I've played my songs

outside of Sweden. This is a big adventure for me." She said she hoped McLachlan

would revive the festival.

Eden AKA blended acoustic guitar and mandolin with intricate three-part vocal

harmonies, sounding like a Down Under answer to Crosby, Stills and Nash.

The tour came under fire recently from the Rev. Jerry Falwell's National Liberty

Journal, which published an essay claiming that the Lilith Fair celebrates a pagan

figure (according to Jewish lore, Lilith was Adam's first wife, before Eve) and promotes

abortion and contraception.

"It's a free country," McLachlan said Tuesday, "and it's a beautiful thing that everybody

gets to voice our opinions, and we have our opinions, and I stand by them personally. I

believe in a woman's right to choose over what she wants to do with her body. I also

believe in free speech ... and that's what we're here to support."