Review and photos by Joshua Maloni
Sarah McLachlan performed Monday in Lewiston.
Take a moment to let that sink in.
McLachlan's appearance at Artpark was no insignificant happening. In fact, I'd liken it to Pope Francis giving Mass at St. Peter's, or President Obama presiding over a Village Board meeting.
You say hyperbole. I say Western New York loves -- loves -- Sarah McLachlan.
The Lilith Fair founder, Academy Awards performer, founder of The Sarah McLachlan School of Music in Vancouver, and Grammy-winning songwriter behind a dozen-plus hit singles could've sold-out any venue in Buffalo or Niagara Falls. How cool was it that she chose Lewiston instead?
To watch McLachlan at Artpark, on a beautiful summer night, was a treat.
Prior to the concert, a male fan (there were plenty) came up to me and said he's seen McLachlan perform on several occasions. He promised two things: Sarah will hit every note in every song, and the audience will be mesmerized.
Both assurances proved true. McLachlan was spot-on during the course of two sets, singing and alternating between guitar, piano and banjo on more than two-dozen songs. Hers is a rare talent treasured around the world, and especially here in Western New York.
McLachlan came on stage shortly after 8 p.m., and told the audience her goal was to unite everyone in song, regardless of seat, section or lawn spot. She said her show would consist of new songs -- tracks from the recently released "Shine On" -- as well as plenty of familiar favorites.
The stage was decorated as if the audience had entered a high-class nightclub or jazz lounge, and featured a couch where lucky social media contest winners were afforded the opportunity to sit, mingle with McLachlan, and take a selfie, or two.
Those in the audience, meanwhile, gave McLachlan their complete and undivided attention. Nary a fidgeter, text messenger or "chatty Cathy" could be found.
It was a remarkable sight.
McLachlan explained the past few years offered plenty of trials, as well as some unexpected moments of joy. She said "Shine On" represents her gratitude toward family, friends and fans who stood by her when she was blue.
"I try to always look at the bright side of things," McLachlan said. "And sometimes it's hard."
The first set featured new songs "Flesh and Blood," "In Your Shoes," "Monsters" and "Broken Heart," as well as classics "Adia," "World on Fire" and "Stupid."
In between songs, McLachlan said she strives to create positive social change in the world through kindness and empathy.
Interestingly, whether McLachlan was singing a new song or a hit she's performed thousands of times, she seemed genuinely happy, and often thanked the crowd of about 4,000 for its vigorous rounds of applause.
Toward the end of the first set, McLachlan took submitted audience questions via a black top hat on her piano. One 5-year-old boy asked if she had swum with dolphins. McLachlan has, once finding herself immersed in mammals on a trip to Mexico.
"Have you swam with dolphins?" McLachlan asked the boy, who was sitting about 20 rows from the stage. "It's really fun."
It was really cute.
McLachlan told concertgoers, "I love that I get to sing for people every night. It's awesome."
She said touring has become a little trickier since she turned 40, but the accompaniment of her two young children helps.
McLachlan explained songs of heartbreak are easier to write -- and she's penned plenty. She joked she would sprinkle in a handful of upbeat love songs to keep fans from becoming depressed.
After a 25-minute break, the second set began with a song McLachlan dedicated to her late dad, "Song For My Father," as well as "Brink of Destruction," which, despite its title, was offered as an ode to her new boyfriend.
McLachlan took a second round of questions and told the audience, "I love what I do. I love making music. ... I'm the luckiest girl in the world."
She said she has no regrets -- "I wouldn't change a thing" -- and took a trip down memory lane with songs "Fumbling Towards Ecstasy," "Fear," "Sweet Surrender" and "Possession."
Following a short stage departure, McLachlan returned for a four-song encore, which featured new songs "Beautiful Girl" (created to inspire her children) and an upbeat "The Sound That Love Makes," as well as her hit "Angel."
The audience was delighted when McLachlan performed "Ice Cream." She asked the crowd to help sing the lyrics with her and her band, noting it was a point in the night when her voice was weakened. Of course, this is Sarah McLachlan we're talking about, so that description was just a modest lie.
If anything, McLachlan's voice seemed to improve as the show went on, much to the appreciation of her fans, who were noticeably blissful throughout the night.
Follow Joshua Maloni on Twitter @joshuamaloni