For three hours on Sunday night, the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre was a loud, energetic and emotional support system for Sarah McLachlan.
From the moment she belted out her first verse, to the inclusive question and answer periods, the fans were on McLachlan’s side, especially when she spoke candidly about her divorce and struggles as a single mom.
It was the last performance for the Canadian singer and songwriter on her Sarah and Friends Tour, which has taken her across North America.
She was promoting Laws of Illusion, her first studio album of new material in seven years, in which time she has divorced and learned how to be a single mother of two.
Since starting her career in 1988, McLachlan has sold more than 40 million albums worldwide, won three Grammys, eight Junos, received the Order of Canada, and has been recognized for advancing the careers of women by starting the Lilith Fair Concert Series, the first all-female touring festival.
The arena fell silent when the lights were dimmed at 7:45 p.m., and a single lantern lit the stage, followed by two more.
As soon as McLachlan walked onto the stage, wearing black leather boots, black skinny jeans and a silver tank top, which was dripping in strands of glitter, the crowd started to scream, whistler and cheer – something they kept up throughout the evening.
She performed each song with passion – playfully prancing across the stage, raising her eyebrows on the high notes, smiling on the softer chords, and waving her left hand as if she was conducting an orchestra.
During the first half of the show, McLachlan played songs like Building a Mystery, Loving You Is Easy, I Will Remember You and World On Fire.
Before and after the intermission, McLachlan handed the stage over to her “musical family” and band-mates, Butterfly Boucher and Melissa McClelland, singing backup for both.
Boucher had the crowd moving with her pop-rock sound, while McLelland held the arena in awe of her bluesy tracks.
Both McLachlan and McLelland touched on the importance of supporting organizations like World Vision, encouraging fans to make a donation at the booth in the foyer in exchange for a free CD.
Throughout the night, remarks like “I love you, Sarah,” and “Stay single, Sarah,” could be heard – especially when she spoke about how divorce and motherhood has changed her as a person and inspired her music.
But nothing got the crowd as involved as the question and answer period, where McLachlan answered inquiries submitted before and during the show, pulling them from a black top hat.
The first question of the night: Have you ever caught a sturgeon?
McLachlan said she had caught a fish once, but when she saw her boyfriend at the time club it over the head, she decided it was her last time.
Following a question about when she started singing, McLachlan reminisced about performing at her mother’s tea parties at only four years old.
“It’s like breathing,” she said. “I can’t imagine not doing it.”
With anonymity playing a factor, the questions ran the gamut, inquiring about everything from McLachlan’s weight (to which she responded that she’s over 140 and loving every pound of it), to what other instruments she plays besides piano and guitar. The latter saw McLachlan coaxed onto the drum set for an impromptu jam with her band.
One of the questions, Have you ever been with a woman? And if so, are you busy after the concert?, drew the most laughter and cheers. McLachlan said had been with a lot of women in a lot of capacities, and that kissing was as far as that went.
She was also asked about the importance of her girlfriends, who were all in attendance.
“My friends are here tonight – if you haven’t already noticed,” she joked. The group of women danced and cheered from beside the stage for the entire show.
When asked her favourite tour memory, she answered, “Right here, right now.”
“This is my favourite show I’ve ever done,” she said.
Following a stellar performance from the Sardis Secondary drum line, who provided the entertainment during the intermission, McLachlan wrapped up with Good Enough, Adia and Sweet Surrender (where she knelt down to meet the women who rushed the stage).
“It never gets old, never gets tired,” she said at the end of the show. “I’m privileged to keep getting the opportunity to play for people that still care about live music.”
Following a standing ovation, McLachlan returned to the stage for an encore. Sitting at her piano, flanked by Boucher and McClelland, she sang Angel.
“Everyone needs a little dessert,” she said, leading into the song Ice Cream, singing it with the help of the audience.
After the upbeat song, she raised her guitar in one hand, offering a thank-you to Abbotsford for a great show.