Shine On Tour
City Recital Hall, Angel Place, Sydney
How does so sad sound so sweet?
A chance to escape the perils of the Canadian winter and surf at Manly Beach and tour for a week in Australia was too irresistible to pass up and thankfully Sarah McLachlan schedules the Sydney show for the Saturday night at the City Recital Hall.
Sarah is no stranger to touring Sydney, having played the State Theatre in 2004, the Opera House on the Afterglow tour in 2005 and the Enmore Theatre in 2010 with her a taste of Lilith Fair Festival. For those that have seen these previous shows, a treat lies in store as this show is vastly different.
As opposed to the Afterglow tour in 2005, which boosted amazing set designs, colorful backdrops and props and an integrated light show, this performance will be raw as the stage is set to minimize distraction. The grand piano at the centre of the stage set against the beautiful wooden panels of the recital hall exudes class and a simple drum kit to the right and a keyboard station to the left do not distract the eye from the main attraction. Sarah will be our focus.
As the lights fade, Sarah enters the stage and does not move from the piano for the 1st 3 songs. The scene has been set to enjoy this night sonically and the acoustics in the city Recital Hall are fined tuned to perfection. Many times throughout the night there exists an eerie silence and you literally could hear a pin drop. This silence is not awkward, it is testament to the talent that is performing. A respect from the crowd and homage to the venue itself.
Sarah has a unique powerful voice that’s strength does not waiver as the octaves get higher. Her opening of the concert has me spellbound, mesmerized by the sheer quality and depth of delivery. Flawless in her execution, the WOW factor plays it’s hand early and I cannot remember being this transfixed by a singer/piano combination. She is an accomplished pianist and has surrounded herself tonight with seasoned musicians.
Joining Sarah on this tour is Butterfly Giselle Grace Boucher on bass guitar and backing vocals who also opens the show as support act, Vincent Jones on keyboards, piano and acoustic guitar and vocals as well as Curt Bisquera on drums and percussion. All musicians have been in the industry for many years and a quartet of talent they are. A wealth of experience between them working with the likes of Tom Petty, John Fogerty, Lionel Ritchie and others.
After the first 3 songs, Sarah leaves the piano to pick up an acoustic guitar and plays Building a Mystery which enthuses the crowd as this song they know and love, and follows that with another song from her Shine On album In your shoes. Beautifully presented acoustically, this showcases Sarah’s strength and raw power. Her voice is pure and imbibes the pleasure senses. Perfect tone and again flawless in pitch and delivery.
It is a common theme throughout the night that Sarah will flit between piano and acoustic guitar and Adia sees Sarah back at the keys. Butterfly harmonizes beautifully with Sarah and Curt has a delicate touch on the cymbals. I think to myself that Sarah’s records are incredible to listen to but hearing her live raises the appreciation to another level. There are few singers in the world that do that for me, including Hannah Reid from London Grammar and Marina Diamandis, and Sarah McLachlan is another one. The backing vocals on I will remember you are exceptional and Vincent accompanies Sarah on acoustic guitar through Beautiful Girl which is a new song that Sarah wrote about unconditional love. “I have 2 daughters aged 12.5 and 7.5 years old who are not with me on this tour but we are going on holidays for 2 weeks when I get back. They are the centre of my universe and I wrote this song about the unconditional love that you have for your kids”.
Sarah, then back on acoustic guitar, sings Hold on from the Fumbling Towards Ecstasy album and as both Vincent and Butterfly join in on a 3 part harmony, I wonder how can a song so sad, sound so sweet. The harmonies are exquisite, a rich layering of voices so in unison to sound as one, that this is perfection. A blend that cannot be surpassed by its sheer sonic beauty.
A couple of tracks from the Afterglow album follow with Fallen and Worlds on Fire. Sarah takes time to explain “I travelled to Thailand and Cambodia when I was 21 years old and realized that I am privileged. I have a desire to give back and thought, What can I do?. I totally believe in positive social change as you will see in my video for Worlds on Fire”. Sarah’s vocal performance is again simply breathtaking.
Sweet Surrender is next and just to accentuate the performance, all the musicians leave the room so that Sarah can deliver a stripped back and bare vocal, back to its original form, which is just sublime. Clearly comfortable in telling stories and little anecdotes, Sarah then tells the following tale. "When I start writing songs for a record they are all slow and depressing. But on the new record Shine on, I met someone which is a surprise as I never leave the house. Songs that started sad and depressing ended up better. He was a cool drink of water. He took me fishing and we have been together ever since”. Break and Destruction, “This is for my sweetie”.
By her own admission Sarah and happy songs don’t usually go hand in hand but Loving you is easy from the Laws of Illusion album makes the set list tonight. A bubbly happy up-tempo track but the love does not last long.
Monsters from Shine on is next as Sarah regales “I have a real issue with people that have moral and ethical limitations. This song is called Monsters.” Sarah switches to an electric guitar this time and Vincent accompanies Sarah on keyboards. Vincent is a very versatile musician and his keys compliment the guitar exceptionally. Still with electric guitar in hand, Sarah belts out the title track to Fumbling Towards Ecstasy which is a great precursor to Fear which is the highlight of the night for me. As she sings ‘I feel I have nothing to give' and hits the high notes perfectly, I know that the audience has appreciated what she has given. A superb performance which is unlikely to be forgotten by many for a long time.
Sarah has added a nice touch to this concert by asking fans with questions for her to be invited on to the stage to ask them. One of the lucky patrons asks “ Who would you like most to collaborate with” to which Sarah replies “Chris Martin and the dude from Snow Patrol” which I think to myself is an interesting combination. Another fan asks ‘"What is on your bucket list that you can share with us’’ and Sarah answers “I don’t have a bucket list but I’d love to surf. I had a board here but got rid of it”. The obligatory selfie is next with her 4 couched guests and in this day and age seems almost mandatory. Sarah is genuine and this part of the show is well received by the crowd.
Angel is another highlight for me and again for dramatic effect, Curt, Vincent and Butterfly all leave the stage. What makes this performance so special is that Butterfly re-enters the stage to sing the last verse by herself unaccompanied and then Sarah joins in to rapturous applause. The crowd rise to a standing ovation and Sarah leaves the stage to a rousing reception.
The encore commences with Song for my father which is Sarah’s tribute to her Dad who passed away 4 years ago and Ice-cream gets played because someone yells out loud enough for Sarah to hear their request.
The final song is a fun choice when Sarah brings out the ukulele to perform The sound that love makes, an instrument that she has played since she was 4 years old. She may have forgotten how to play it but it doesn’t show. What resonates with me is the quality of the vocals on this tour. Again a flawless performance and an exceptional night.
see more photos here