I could not think of a better way to spend the 4th of July weekend other than at Ravinia on a beautiful breezy summer evening. It was especially a real treat to see one of my favorite singer/songwriters, Sarah McLachlan, performing with her band on her Shine On Tour. What a lady!
First, let me introduce the set. A simple, yet elegant mock of a spacious and artsy looking living room (her living room). On the ceiling hung three large circular objects with lights around the rims that symbolized chandeliers. They, along with other hanging light fixtures, lit up and created an awesome looking light show. Occasionally on certain songs, there were 3 large screens that served as a wall for the stage. There was a purple couch on the side of the stage with a coffee table facing the band, and there were white string lights hanging that helped create a soft lamplight effect.
Sarah walked on stage along with her band, as humble as ever, wearing a shiny silver loose top that showed off her toned arms and black pants. She grabbed a guitar, and made a brief introductory speech, and told us what a great city we have (I think artists say that about every city, but this one is true), and how she spent the 4th of July here in Chicago. She mentioned her new album, Shine On, which was just released a couple of months ago, and acknowledged that some people might not know the new songs, so she would intertwine the new with the old ones that everyone was most likely there to hear.
There’s 25 songs on the set list, so I will mention the ones that I particularly enjoyed the most. The first half of the night she sang and played familiar songs such as “Building a Mystery,” the tender “Adia (one of my favorites),” the emotionally powerful ballad that I think everyone can relate to, “Stupid,” and “World on Fire (famously played in commercials).” She would explain the meaning behind her songs which I appreciated. She had a way of talking to her audience as if she was talking to her friends in her living room. Very conversational, and I think that aspect brought us closer to her and her music. “Broken Heart” was a beautiful and moving song with her at the piano. The title is self explanatory, but it basically reflects the events that were going on in her life, and how she moved on from divorce, raising her two kids, and finding another partner.
The second half of the set included a mix of her spine-tingling ballads and soft-rock slightly harder edged songs which were very cool and different from her usual material. She opened up the second set with a song about her father, whom she lost a few years ago, and the lessons he taught her, and how she will reflect that onto her children. Next, she played and sang “I will Remember You,” probably one of her most well known songs in the late 1990s. That was played at my 8th grade graduation, so it definitely brought back memories for me. “Brink of Destruction” is oddly enough a very positive song about how life can bring you down, but you get right back up and move. She talked about how she was used to writing about sad and tragic situations, so her songs were sad and solemn, but her new partner helped and inspired her to take that kind of energy and create something different and more uplifting while still keeping her signature sound. I really loved “Hold On” which was a song for her children, and I think children in general. She went back to her epically tragic and witty form of songwriting with “Sweet Surrender,” and of course, the haunting “Possession,” which was about a stalker.
The encore was much longer than I expected. She began with “Angel,“a slow ballad that became popular as it was played in the City of Angels movie. “Beautiful Girl” was written about her daughters, and I loved it as it was sentimental. She ended the night with “The Sound That Love Makes,” which was a little bit of a jazzier and uplifting piece; perfect for ending an amazing evening of good music and fresh air.
I’d like to mention that the couch on stage not only served as a piece of furniture that completed the living room like set, but select members of the audience who won a certain contest on her website were invited to go sit on it and watch her play a song. She also went up to them, and talked and answered any questions that they had. I thought that was really neat and showed that she is a down to Earth person. Audience members were also allowed to write questions on a piece of paper, which she drew from a hat and answered them. Some were quite funny, and her answers seemed very honest.
I totally enjoyed watching and hearing Sarah, with her signature Celtic-like voice and microphone effects. Her voice, her songwriting, her multi-instrumental abilities, and most of all, her personable, calm and wordly attitude and personality make her a lovely artist and a must see.
Reviewed by Sarah Breidenbach