Sarah McLachlan – Symphony Hall, Birmingham (Live Review)

Sat 23rd October 2004

Butterfly Boucher – Buy Butterfly Boucher CD’s from Amazon

It must take a great deal of confidence to walk out on stage in front of an almost full Symphony Hall with just a guitar for company. Confidence disguised as arrogance maybe. Mind you with (we are assured) a real name like Butterfly, I guess one looks at things differently. Volume was another thing which the aforementioned Butterfly rather over-egged. You really don’t need to yell like you’re in a bar or in an outdoor folk festival with a seated audience and some of the best acoustics in the country. Having said that, I’d like to think that this particular performer was one to watch ; the songs themselves were really very good, a good range of style and superb self-accompaniment on acoustic guitar and a little bit of piano, together with bass and piano from Sarah McLachlans band members for a couple of the half a dozen tracks performed.

Sarah McLachlan – Buy Sarah McLachlan CD’s from Amazon

The hall was full now and people were very excited. It’s been a while since I’ve been to a “big gig”; there was a stage set, big lights and just loads of people on stage. Ok, there were 8. But 2 tracks in and my heart was plummeting. The songstress, to whom other performers get compared, delivered 2 tracks from her recent ” Afterglow” album, complete with all the aor over-production which made me shudder the first time around. There were drums, two keyboard players, two guitarists (and often Sarah McLachlan herself) bassist, backing singer and drummer.
Talking to the audience appears to come very naturally to this accomplished perfomer who confessed to not having really done a UK and European tour for 10 years – which would be just before I learned about her (thankyou, Due South); and, declaring that she chose the set list just from all her favourite tracks, settled down and proceeded to deliver an amazing set with tracks from the album “Solace” onwards. She was absolutely at ease on stage and the audience hung on her every word. Her voice soared. I think she was confidently hitting at least high A on “Fear” which probably gives her a ridiculous 4 or more octave range or thereabouts. She switched between piano and guitar with ease and the whole band looked like they were having a whale of a time. And they did step off the volume occasionally and do interesting arrangements as well. “Possession” started blissfully peacefully with just Sarah on piano – for the first few bars before the rest of the band kicked in but at least it was an unusual arrangement. When the band was introduced it became apparent why the drummer featured so much – she’d married him!

In total the performance lasted a good hour and three quarters of pure accomplishment. The first encore included a gem version of “Ice cream” with a handful of the band coming to the front of the stage, cutting down the instruments and harmonising effortlessly. This band has been together for sixteen years and their easiness together demonstrates this. For the second encore she came out on her own and , accompanying herself on piano with her characteristic vocal clarity , did a beautiful version of “a Angel” (from the soundtrack of the film, ” City of Angels”). It was the perfect way to end the evening. Pay close attention, people, the teacher is in town.

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