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Lilith Fair makes its third and final tour- for now

by Alan Sculley


Last Word Features

   Sarah McLachlan admits she had selfish reasons for making this summer's Lilith Fair the final run for the female-oriented festival- at least for the time being.

    "We had a three-year plan right from the beginning, and I guess the idea was at the beginning of the third year, we'd reassess and decide whether we were going to continue with it," McLachlan said.

    "And as incredibly rewarding and amazing and fun the whole thing is, it's also a huge amount of work - six or seven months previous to even leaving on the road. I think we all realized it was time for a break, for us. And it's selfish. It's selfishly motivated."

    Of course, the idea of giving Lilith Fair a rest was also probably easier to accept for McLachlan because of what the innovative festival has accomplished over and above presenting audiences with a day of quality music from a diverse range of artists.

    "I do think it helped to create a bit of a community for the women in the music industry, for us a performers, as entertainers and musicians, to be able to come together and hear each other's music and talk to each other," McLachlan said. "It's really inspiring."
    Just as importantly, she suspects Lilith Fair has changed some long-held stereotypes within the music industry -perhaps for good.

    "As far as the bottom line of strong and important source for the industry, I think that's become recognized," said McLachlan.

    In its three years of existence, Lilith Fair has undoubtedly shown that female artists do have considerable drawing power playing to consistently full houses as the festival has hosted performances by a literal who's who of contemporary.  female performers including Jewel, Paula Cole, Shawn Colvin, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Bonnie Raitt, Natalie Merchant, Joan Osborne and Sheryl Crow (the latter artist, a member of the inaugural lineup, is also featured on this year's bill).

    McLachlan is pleased that Lilith also offered a forum for many talented new artists- a tradition that continues this year with performers such as Beth Orton, Sixpence None The Richer, Susan Tedeschi, and Cibo Matto among the dozens of emerging artists who will appear on various stages.

    "I had so many artists come and tank me, and so many young artists and developing artists," McLachlan said. "it was just really cool to have them say 'You Know, thanks so much for this opportunity.' And I sort of feel like I got my career oppoirtunity handed to me on a silver platter. I was very lucky.

    "Obviously I had to work at it to make it happen, but I feel so good about being able to give other artists a bit of a step-up because it's so competitive and so hard to get yourself known."

    McLachlan is clearly aware Lilith Fair has also helped boost her career to superstar status.

    By the time she launched Lilith Fair, the native of Halifax, Nova Scotia, had already scored a world-wide hit with 1993's "Fumbling Toward Ecstasy" - a CD that followed two releases, "Touch" (1988) and "Solace" (1991), that had made her a star in her homeland of Canada. But McLachlan's leading role as an organizer of the festival has generated tons of publicity and introduced her to legions of fans who at best had only minor awareness of her music.

    "Fumbling Towards Ecstasy" and the 1997 follow-up "Surfacing," have each sold about five million copies, totals that would have been difficult, if not outright impossible to match had McLachlan not had a leading role in Lilith Fair.

    "Any of us as a singular artist, we can go into a venue and play between 1,000 and 7,000 people," McLachlan said of the featured headliners who have played Lilith Fair.

    "With Lilith, you're playing in front of 25,000 people."

    This year's Lilith Fair will find McLachlan touring behind a new concert CD, "Mirrorball."

    It's 14 songs were drawn from McLachlan's 37-date spring tour that preceded last summer's Lilith Fair, and include performances of such familiar songs as "Building A Mystery," "Angel," "Possession" and "Sweet Surrender."

    When the Lilith tour ends, McLachlan is planning an extended hiatus from music.

    She said it could easily be two or three years between she finishes another studio record.

    "I've been going pretty much full stream for 12 years, and I'm lucky I can take a bit of a break now," she said.

    One goal during her break, McLachlan hinted, might be to start a family with her husband, Ashwin Sood.

    "I'm thinking a lot about lullabies and babies and stuff," McLachlan said with a playful laugh. "I'm really in that mode."