On Sarah McLachlan & Her Music
Sarah McLachlan was among the female Alternative Pop artists who shot to commercial popularity amidst the Alternative Rock music explosion in the 1990s—alongside the likes of Alanis Morissette, Tori Amos, and Natalie Imbruglia. In the Philippines, many fans remember her especially for the song “Adia,” which was a commercial radio staple in that decade. My favorite song by McLachlan is “Vox.”
The Artist & the Songs
Born on January 28, 1968, the singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan hailed from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. To date she has released eight studio albums: ‘Touch’ (1988), ‘Solace’ (1991), ‘Fumbling towards Ecstasy’ (1993), ‘Surfacing’ (1997), ‘Afterglow’ (2003), ‘Wintersong’ (2006), ‘Laws of Illusion’ (2010), and ‘Shine On’ (2014). She broke into the international commercial music scene with her fourth album, especially because of the songs “Adia,” “Angel,” “Sweet Surrender,” and “Building a Mystery.”
Other recommended songs off her discography are “Out of the Shadows,” “Vox,” “Into the Fire,” “I Will Not Forget You,” “Ice,” “Hold On,” “Fallen,” “World on Fire,” “Wintersong,” “In the Bleak Mid-Winter,” “Illusions of Bliss,” “Rivers of Love,” “Song for My Father,” and “The Sound that Love Makes.”
Concert Review (‘Shine On Tour,’ Nov. 3, Centennial Hall, Winnipeg)
The Winnipeg leg of McLachlan’s ‘Shine On’ Tour was successful and delightful. Centennial Hall was filled to the rafters, so to speak. The audience was comprised by mostly couples and friends in their late ’40s or above, the reason the show exuded an air of formality and relatively quiet music appreciation. Every song rendered by McLachlan and her four-musician backing band (guitarist, bassist, keyboardist, drummer) sounded so good—pristine-sounding and precise and yet still pounding—as if you were listening to an actual record. The setlist was a good mix of her earlier materials and songs from the latest album. McLachlan, as usual, showcased not only her singing prowess but also her proficiency in playing her instruments—piano and guitar; she also played the ukulele in the concert’s closer. Obviously, the majority of the audience offered their loudest applause for McLachlan’s more familiar tunes, particularly “I Will Remember You” and “Adia.” Personally, however, I welcomed her new materials with the same amount of appreciation; I especially liked the keyboard parts of songs from the latest album—very melodic and subtly orchestrated with catchy introductory interludes. The album’s being too personal could also be felt in its musicality. (She dedicated it to the passing of her father.) The highlight of the show was the intermission portion in which McLachlan invited some members of the audience to join her onstage; there was a living-room couch there that served as the setting for their casual-style conversation. Aside from giving the lucky individuals a chance to take selfies with her, she also prodded them to ask her questions, which she promptly answered. Here are three questions off that gimmick that I find worth sharing.
What was the first instrument that you learned to play? “The ukulele; I was three. I was six or seven when my mom let me play the guitar.” Wonderfully, McLachlan finished off the show with the last track off her latest album, “The Sound that Love Makes,” in which she played the ukulele.
What were your early influences? “Joan Baez, Simon & Garfunkel, Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush, Cocteau Twins, and many European New Wave bands from the ’80s.” [I was the only one in the audience who shouted yeah when she cited Cocteau Twins as one of her influences.]
Whom do you like better—Madonna or Lady Gaga? [Paused for a while] “I like the early Madonna. The Madonna now has become a bit harsh to her fans. There was a recent concert in which she was telling the fans that they were not cheering loudly enough for her. I like Lady Gaga too; she’s very talented; but her choice of costumes could be quite interesting.”
McLachlan’s music may be classified as Pop Rock or Alternative Pop. It has obvious elements of Pop, Rock, Country, Folk, and a bit of Celtic and New Wave.
The songs that many fans of McLachlan cite as their favorites are usually “Adia” and “I Will Remember You.” Mine though is “Vox,” from her first album, ‘Touch’ (1988). As a New Wave enthusiast, I easily heard the New Wave influence in that song. After all, when asked about her early musical influences, McLachlan included “Cocteau Twins and many European New Wave bands” in her answer.