Back in 1994, I received a gift certificate to a local record shop (that’s right, a record shop) called Tom Tom’s. I browsed the store for awhile, when I came upon a CD called Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, by Sarah Mclachlan. I had never heard of this artist from the great white north, however, I was drawn in by the cover art and the titles of her songs intrigued me. Titles like: Possession, Plenty, Wait, Hold On, Ice Cream, and Fumbling Towards Ecstasy. I decided to take a chance on it. And thus began a seventeen year love affair.
Sarah is on tour right now and the logistics fell in our favor to put her in SLC on Feb. 14th, Valentine’s Day. That night my wife and I went to dinner and then attended the concert.
The ticket said, Sarah Mclachlan and Friends. Her friends turned out to be Melissa McClleland, her husband Luke Doucet, and Australian chanteuse Butterfly Boucher (rhymes with voucher) and it is her given name.
Instead of having an opening act by the friends, followed by Sarah and her band, Sarah’s band turned out to be her friends. They all performed together. Sarah would do a few songs, then turn the stage over to one of her friends and she would sing back up or accompany on the piano. They are all friends, they know each others’ music, and most of all you could sense a genuine love for their work. There was no ego on that stage. Everyone knew that is was Sarah’s show, but she didn’t have to tell anyone that. They were all there supporting each other and grateful to be a part of each others’ music. You may have heard of a little thing called Lilith Fair. Same concept, bigger stage.
The first time I saw Sarah in concert was the first time I saw Paula Cole. A complete unknown with her first album, Harbinger (which I think is still my favorite). My wife and I instantly fell in love with Paula and have remained fans to this day. Fumbling Towards Ecstasy was Sarah’s third album and as it turns out her break out album in the States. She didn’t yet wield the power that she does now, yet still . . . Sarah told the story of how she wanted Paula to open for her and somebody who thought he was in charge said “no way” claiming that audiences wouldn’t come to a two woman ticket. To which Sarah responded, “Oh really? Then we’re definitely doing it.” I for one am glad they did.
To further connect with the audience, Sarah put a top hat by the merchandise stand where the audience wrote down questions and Sarah then read the questions and answered them on stage. She did this twice during the show.
Some of the questions were (I’ll paraphrase as best I can):
Q: Which comes first the music or the lyrics?
A: The music, always the music. Sometimes there’s a phrase or an idea which accompanies the music initially, but I work from such an emotional place that sometimes it can take me a month to do one song.
Continuing this idea, at one point she introduced a song by saying it was an older song that she’d stopped performing for awhile, saying that if there’s no emotional connection to a song then she can’t sing it. It doesn’t feel real; it doesn’t feel honest. In regards to that song, she said she’d recently revisited it and suddenly it all made sense again.
One of my favorite questions was:
Q: Is your love better than ice cream?
A: I don’t think I’m the one to answer that question. Then she said, yes.
Only two things came to my mind to ask her: 1) What would it take to get her to tour again with Paula and 2) to share something fun about her and her kids. She has two daughters. Fortunately, somebody else asked the latter. “Tell us about something silly you do with your daughters.”
A: We have a family bath so my daughters and I take a bath together and then chase each other naked around the house and smack each others’ bottoms. They have such cute little kid bottoms you can’t help but squeeze them.
Q: Ryan asks, “Are you really single?”
A: To this she responded that yes she is single and went on to comment about how this has been called the divorce album by some. But she also commented on how going through that difficult time has put her in a better place and she can now look back on it and be glad it’s behind her. She also commented on how she is enjoying getting to know herself as a single. She’s been with somebody since she was eighteen with the exception of about six months.
Which is interesting because on her last tour she talked about what happy place she was in and how her husband had really helped her through a trying time especially childbirth and those first few months after giving birth. She has some beautiful songs (Push, Answer) she wrote expressing her love and thanks to her husband.
In the second round of questions came this:
Q: My name is Allison. I’m eleven. I love your work. Can I have a hug?
A: “Oh, that’s sweet. Where is Allison?
In a kind of follow up to Ryan, Leslie also inquired about her single status and gave Sarah her phone number asking Sarah to call her and if not would she please give her number to Butterfly. Somebody called out from the audience something about Ryan to which Sarah said, “Ryan didn’t have balls enough to give me his number.”
Little did we know that Ryan and submitted a second question where in he’d become more brazen. Sarah was sitting at the piano at this point. She read the question to herself then said, “Oh, Ryan. Ryan’s being cheeky. He says, Does the rug match the drapes?” By Butterfly’s reaction she seemed shocked but secretly approving. Most of the audience voiced their disapproval but I can’t help but wonder how much of that was just show, doing what they thought was the appropriate response when they too were curious to know. After the hubbub settled a bit, Sarah said, “No.” Her friends were surprised she said so but Sarah responded that her intent was to answer everything honestly.
I’m not one to gush, really I’m not. Behind the bright lights most “stars” are just people, like you and me. However, Sarah really inspires me. I love to see artists who beat the odds and are doing what they love to do. Sarah expressed her thanks for each of them to us, who enable them to perform and do what they love—how grateful they are to still have an audience. You can tell how much she loves it. When she sings and moves on stage you see the music just flowing through her as if it is a physical extension of her. I guess in a way it is.
But that is not all. I present to you other reasons to love Sarah:
She has done a lot of work with World Vision. She raised a ton of money for ASPAC, and the Sarah McLachlan Foundation whose sole mandate is to support and expand her music outreach program—a free music school in Vancouver, which serves 270 kids who otherwise would not have access to music lessons. At that she expressed her desire for all kids to have music in their lives of some fashion. I agree. If I had to name a regret in my life it’s that I didn’t do more with music than I did. I still want to learn the guitar and take voice lessons.
And although I’m sorry for Sarah’s divorce, a little part of me is happy she’s single.
Of any person I’ve seen in concert, no one else connects to her audience like Sarah does. She is honest, personable, and as my wife says, genuine. She makes you feel like she’s singing only to you, showed up only because you personally were going to be there. Which explains the audience. I’ve never seen such a diverse audience. There were fans there from age 11 to 60, mostly couples, both gay and straight, and we were all simply happy and grateful to be there.
Sarah, as long as you keep singing, we’ll keep coming.