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"Nothing's overdone at McLachlan show
By Tom Moon
Inquirer Music Critic

Since her debut in 1988, Sarah McLachlan has carved out a niche writing solemn chronicles of relationship trouble. Most of her songs move at a ceremonial crawl, gathering churchy hymn chords and Chopin nocturne melodies and Pink Floyd-ish art-rock pomp into a weighty, barely suppressed wail.

It's an unremitting soundtrack of woes mounting and worlds crumbling, and it would quickly become tiresome were it not for McLachlan's one redeeming trait: She has a plaintive voice of almost angelic grace.
Saturday at the Wachovia Center, performing before a "girl's night out" crowd that filled the arena, the Canadian singer and songwriter used that formidable voice to show just how persuasive understatement can be. Singing gingerly, insinuating more than declaring, McLachlan made heartbreak sound like a misery of the sweet (if not noble) kind. She keened and pouted throughout a well-paced 90-minute set of meditative pop-rock, underscoring her accounts of emotional turbulence with tiny blink-and-you-miss-them nuances - a sigh, or the hint of a tremble - that had seismic impact.

At times it was enough to hear McLachlan's voice, which has a smooth porcelain texture, soaring eaglelike in the vast space. Alone at the piano for the first verse of her 1997 hit "Adia," she sang in halting fits and starts, as though listening to the way her thin ribbon of a voice resonated. On that selection and several grand processionals from her current disc Afterglow (notably "Fallen" and "Answer"), McLachlan avoided wallowing in overt emotion; instead, she let ache seep between the lilting piano chords.

Despite a rather ornate stage set featuring fake trees and interconnecting branches overhead, there was nothing excessive about the show: Everything McLachlan and her band attempted, including the lumbering "Possession," the electronic pulsation of "Sweet Surrender," and the spare voice-and-guitar version of the Beatles' "Blackbird," which was an encore standout, was executed with crisp restraint, so as to let the poignancy embedded in the music shine through.

Opening act Butterfly Boucher charged gamely through a set of unexceptional songs that would have benefitted from even a smidgen of McLachlan's understatement."

She sang Fallen, Possession, Adia, Sweet Surrender...all my former/current theme songs...

And...she sang Blackbird--another song I recently started listening to more.


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