My last minute decision to attend Lilith Fair at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in Irvine, CA, wasn’t something that I regretted; however, I found myself wanting more. As a fan of the music of the 1990s, I was looking forward to Sarah McLachlan. After experiencing and witnessing the day’s events, I realized that I could not compare this year’s Lilith Fair to the caliber that it once was.
The highly female attended event was indeed a celebration of women in music. Although I was not familiar with some of the artists, they played for a purpose. McLachlan said that she “wanted to bring this back, this sisterhood.” Her humility was pure, but McLachlan’s apparent kindness couldn’t save many cancelled tour dates.
Unfortunately, I didn’t arrive in time to catch the first two acts – Molly Jenson and Susan Justice. Blame that on Southern California traffic. I did make my way to see The Weepies – a folk group led by husband and wife team, Deb Talan and Steve Tannen. Performing on one of the smaller stages, there was quite a number in attendance, and their harmonies were beautiful.
Elizaveta, the pretty Russian keyboardist, started her set on the third stage immediately after The Weepies played their last note. Donned in a beautiful white dress, her powerhouse vocals were obviously based on her operatic training. As she sang, and played the keyboard as only a classical pianist could, she romanced the audience with songs about longing, snow in Venice, and a “goodbye song that is a little bitter.” The mix of classical, jazz and Broadway influences in her performance was really refreshing.
In contrast to Elizaveta’s delicate elegance were U.K. sensation, Marina and the Diamonds. Donned in green-outlined sunglasses, bright lipstick, and what appeared to be a jumper decorated with Mickey Mouse, Marina and her band got the crowd pumped. My first thought when listening to them was Regina Spektor. The style was unique and very energetic. Their music was danceable and fun. Opening with the lines, “I Am Not a Robot,” Marina danced and worked the stage until slowing down to sit behind the keyboard.
Marina and the Diamonds were the last act before Lilith moved to the main stage. Brandi Carlile and her awesome, rock and country-infused voice was an awesome way to open up the main stage performances. She told the crowd: “Look at the size of this place! Talk about bringing a little bar band to tears.”
The bar band in the big venue kept it real. Carlile was the epitome of cool in her all-black rock star outfit. Strumming her guitar with the support of her band, she even did a little cover of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.” Before breaking into her popular hit, “The Story,” she said that the band has “spent so much time touring in this area, and wherever we could get a gig… we are excited to play this song in this huge space.”
The dynamic at the main stage changed slightly after Emmylou Harris stepped foot before the crowd. Switching gears from Brandi Carlile’s country-inspired rock to the classic country style of Emmylou Harris definitely created a change in mood. As I looked around the amphitheatre, people were less energetic, however every song was followed by a warm applause. You have to give the woman credit though – as she looked amazing up on stage, especially at her age. She had some delicate moments as she sang songs that were dedicated to her children. Her last song was sung a-cappella, and the crowd rose to their feet for a standing ovation.
And then there was the mariachi band. Although this seemed a little out of place, they opened with “Cielito Lindo.” A stunning Latina, dressed in a purple Flamenco dress emerged from backstage. The crowd loved her and sang along to the very popular Ranchera song from Mexico. Jenni Rivera was vibrant, comical and entertaining. She added an unexpected sound to the Lilith Fair artist lineup. After singing “Angel Baby” (complete with a shot of tequila), Rivera said, “It’s a pleasure to be here. Many of you may not know who I am, but that’s okay. I’m proud to be the first regional Mexican artist on this tour.” Telling jokes between songs, she continuously blew kisses to the crowd. After her beautiful rendition of “Besame Mucho,” an adoring fan brought her flowers.
Spitfire Miranda Lambert opened her set with “Kerosene.” The country girl from Texas told her fans that she “sang in church choirs, believe it or not… then discovered Bacardi and that’s much to my Daddy’s dismay.” She was extremely grateful to both Emmylou Harris and Sarah McLachlan and appreciated that McLachlan “let a country girl come to Lilith Fair.”
Lambert and her band wowed the crowd with songs from her new record, as well as favorites, “Gunpowder and Lead,” and “White Liar.” Joined by Brandi Carlile, the two covered Patsy Cline’s “Crazy.”
The founder and headliner, Sarah McLachlan, started her set with “Angel.” “Welcome to Lilith Fair 2010!” said McLachlan. She performed many songs from her latest record, Laws of Illusion. Sounding clear and solid, she still carried that same strength that she had in the 1990s. Pleasing the crowd with old favorites such as “Aida,” “Sweet Surrender,” and “Possession,” McLachlan danced and was grateful. Her encore of “Ice Cream” got everyone singing in unison.
The other performers of Lilith Fair joined McLachlan for a cover of Patti Smith’s rocking hit, “Because the Night.” At the closing of this event, it all seemed to come together nicely. The tour may not be as popular or as dynamic as it once was, but it still carried McLachlan’s vision of celebrating women in music.