STATELINE — Before she stepped upon the stage at Lake Tahoe, everyone knew Sarah McLachlan was a compassionate, talented singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. During the show we learned that she can rock out, sprinkle humor with salty language and has had sex in an exotic place.
The Canadian performer opened the summer series June 24 at the Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harveys with 23 inspirational songs, eight from “Shine On,” an album she released last month.
Early in the show, before the sun set over the lake, the amiable McLachlan made eye contact and exchanged smiles and nods with her adoring fans, who kept a quiet focus, allowing an appropriate intimacy.
“I brought my living room here because I hate to leave my house,” McLachlan said after the first song. The stage was adorned with five circular lights, and three vertical video monitors which shone like vibrant tapestries. A pair of couches were used during the show by McLachlan’s 7- and 12-year-old daughters and 12 ticketholders who were rewarded for their altruism described in an essay contest.
McLachlan said her life goal became clear when at the age of 22 she traveled to Thailand. Raised in a “conservative, upper-middle-class family,” she was shocked to learn so many people don’t have things she had taken for granted.
“I want to make the world a better place,” McLachlan said. Good deeds, she added, “have a ripple effect.”
Later, however, McLachlan had fun with her well-known good Samaritan persona when she introduced a new song, “Monsters.” She explained the tune was about people with hidden agendas.
“But wouldn’t it be boring without those people who make such friction?” she said. “I think that on a good day. The rest of the time I think, “What an asshole!’ ”
With a penchant for capturing the listener’s attention with the opening line, McLachlan, known for her mezzo-soprano vocal range, is a superb songwriter. She describes emotions, situations and viewspoints more than telling stories in verse. Her band is made up of in-demand session players. Curt Bisquera played drums and bassist Jon Evans was onstage with McLachlan for the first time. Keyboardist Vincent Jones and guitarist Joel Shearer also played on “Shine On.” Shearer appears on numerous artists’ records, including all of those by Alanis Morissette.
There were two sets Tuesday, the first filled with ballads, songs for which music critics have described McLachlan as an “atmospheric folk-pop” artist.
The second was more uptempo and intense. A contrast to what is on the album, the arrangement on “Stumbling Towards Ecstasy” had a trance-rock groove, led by Shearer’s lead guitar. McLachlan, who played four instruments during the show, was on electric rhythm guitar.
However, she said she doesn’t consider herself a rocker. That came from one of the two question-and-answer sessions with the audience.
Her favorite rock band?
“Pearl Jam, but they pissed me off,” she said. “I’m 46 and I had to stand for three and one-half hours.”
McLachlan said she prefers to chair dance, which most of the crowd did, up until she sang her greatest hit, “Possession,” and the ensuing three-song encore set.
A supporter of the “leave-no-trace” philosophy, McLachlan confessed she “stole a couple of big-ass pine cones” during her day spent at Tahoe. “Holy crap, they are big.”
She was taken aback when she pulled a personally pointed question out of a stove-top hat. But she gave an answer to “where was the most exotic place you’ve had sex?” “On a boat in the Desolation Sound.”
McLachlan finished the show playing the first instrument she ever learned – ukulele – for another new song, “This Is The Sound That Love Makes.”
Earlier, McLachlan said she believes she was put on the earth to be onstage and share her music.
“This is where I feel most grounded, alive and full of passion.”
A crowd of 3,500 are happy to have experienced it.
Editor’s note: Tahoe Onstage photos by John C. Cocores.
June 24, 2014
Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harveys
1 – “Flesh and Blood”
2 – “Building a Mystery”
3 – “In Your Shoes”
4 – “Adia”
5 – “Answer”
6 – “Broken Heart”
7 – “Fallen”
8 – “World on Fire”
9 – “Loving You is Easy”
10 – “Monsters”
11 – “Stupid”
1 – “Song for My Father”
2 – “I Will Remember You”
3 – “Brink of Destruction”
4 – “Stumbling Towards Ecstasy”
5 – “Witness”
6 – “Fear”
7 – “Sweet Surrender”
8 – “Possession”
1 – “Beautiful Girl”
2 – “Angel”
3 – “Ice Cream”
4 – “This is the Sound That Love Makes”