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Live Review: Sarah McLachlan – 7th February 2015 – City Recital Hall, Sydney, Australia

5 min read

I’ve always had a particular fondness for the 90’s. Anyone who knows me will back me up there and if you flick through the pages of Renowned For Sound you may notice a trend in my coverage of acts from that decade. The 90’s were responsible for many changes in the landscape of the music industry including the age of the boyband and girlband, the rise of grunge and the emergence of female singer-songwriters. The ladies of sombre pop ruled the roost throughout the decade with the likes of Alanis Morissette, Lisa Loeb, Amanda Marshall, Tori Amos and Jewel all finding their way through an industry that was heavily influenced by testosterone and suits. The ladies carved a path for many who followed in their footsteps and one of the musicians that was at the forefront of it all was 3-time Grammy Award winning Canadian songbird, Sarah McLachlan.

McLachlan was one of the most successful female singer-songwriters for a number of years throughout the 90’s and became not just known for turning out enormous tearjerkers like I Will Remember You and Angel but also on the dancefloor, collaborating with electronic club masters Delirium on their 1999 trance hit Silence.  She also led the way for many female musicians through founding Liliath Fair, a touring concert that put the limelight on the females of the music industry.

While her peak years were left in the 90’s, McLachlan has retained an international fan-base and has released records every few years throughout her 28 year career as a recording and touring artist.

In 2014 McLachlan released her 8th studio album, Shine On, a collection of new tracks centring in on the losses and changes in her life over the past few years, and she is now on the road taking the new songs to fans around the world. With a successful show in Melbourne last week, it was Sydney’s turn last night as the musician took to the quant settings of the City Recital Hall in Sydney’s CBD for a night that proved as fresh as it was nostalgic.

After a brief support slot filled by Australian singer Butterfly Boucher, McLachlan took to the stage at just after 9pm to a venue full of cheers. With the stage set for her grand piano, keyboardist, drummer and Butterfly Boucher providing the band with bass guitar for the night, Sarah wasted no time at all as she dove straight into the 21-song set of songs that spanned her 28 years as an international recording star.

New numbers including Shine On album opener In Your Shoes, Broken Heart and the flavoursome Monsters were very fitting to the set and were complimenting inclusions as they sat beside some of the singers career highlights like I Will Remember You which cast a nostalgic vibe over the crowd who watched on in awe and admiration as McLachlan danced through one of the finest hits of her lengthy career. Her performance of In Your Shoes also cast the spotlight onto McLachlan’s philanthropist work over the years with the song being inspired by Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai and McLachlan offering to the crowd stories of her experiences as with charities which started when she was 21 years old.

An encore performance of Ice Cream seemed a highly sought after crowd pleaser with members of the sold out crowd throwing out requests for the song to be sung throughout the night. Those requests were met with a grateful response when the singer-songwriter delivered the song on her guitar and with Butterfly Boucher providing some sweet harmonies within the number as she did on various songs throughout the set including Elsewhere and the eclectic and eccentric Fumbling Towards Ecstasy.

While the new songs were out on display throughout the show, it was of course the 90’s hits that were the most celebrated and applauded. Building a Mystery offered the early half of a the set a flowing injection of nostalgia as did Adia and Sweet Surrender but it was the musicians signature singles, I Will Remember You and Angel, that had the crowd the most engaged and the whole venue listening so intently as the pair of ballads were delivered with beauty, eloquence and rawness from the pitch-perfect Canadian superstar. One song that was missing from the set and would have been nice to hear was her collaborative dancefloor hit, Silence but with so many Sarah McLachlan staples finding a place within the 2 hour show, this can be forgiven. Afterall, as McLachlan confessed to herself several times during the show, her love is for “slow and depressing songs”.

The performance had a very intimate feel to it from start to end thanks to the unique approach to the show by McLachlan. The musician explained at the start of the show that she was “wanting to create less of a boundary” between the performer and the fans so as a way to include the audience in her journey through the set, McLachlan offered several audience members the opportunity of joining her onstage where a sofa had been placed for the fans to be seated during the closing few songs of the main set. After welcoming the fans to the stage she introduced herself, took photos with them and accepted a scarf off a particularly excited female guest who insisted McLachlan wear the handwoven item in their photo with the musician which dew some cheers and laughs from the crowd. A top hat also sat perched on top of her grand piano and was filled with questions from fans which McLachlan answered in the middle of the set.

There are many artists who are unable to retain their star status or appeal as a performer after several years away from the recording studio or touring circuit but it seems the star is far from fading for the singer songwriter who delighted fans with her new songs whilst throwing in some of the singer-songwriter genres staple hits.

With a voice that cannot be faltered (in fact she sounds better live than she does on her records which is a hard thing to come by these days), Sarah McLachlan’s latest album title couldn’t be more suited to her place in the industry. While her goals of achieving number ones and selling millions upon millions of records have shifted over the years, the singer’s growth as an artist and a performer is certainly shining on and last night’s performance was testament to that.

Set List:
Broken Heart
Building a Mystery
In Your Shoes
I Will Remember You
Beautiful Girl
Hold On
World on Fire
Sweet Surrender
Brink of Destruction
Loving You Is Easy
Fumbling Towards Ecstasy

Song for My Father
Ice Cream
The Sound That Love Makes