Review: Sarah McLachlan at the Strathmore

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Attending one of Sarah McLachlan’s concerts is like attending a spiritual mass where your inner being is serenely centered, uplifted, and renewed.

Sarah McLachlan. Photo by Kharen Hill.
Sarah McLachlan. Photo by Kharen Hill.

McLachlan has a uniquely impactful way of making every patron feel immediately welcomed and instantly connected to her on a very personal level, conveying further depth and meaning to her songs. Friday’s performance to the sold-out crowd at the Strathmore Music Hall was no exception; the first of McLachlan’s six-city tour, the show organically exhibited her soul-soothing sounds both vocally and musically, as she impressively sang and played the piano, two guitars, and a ukulele for nearly two hours.

“Hello! What a beautiful venue!” McLachlan enthusiastically exclaimed to the primarily thirty-something and older gathering who replied back with adoring applause, before she launched into her opener “Possession,” which she revealed was actually a song about a stalker, loosely based on letters he had sent her, but was often played in weddings. (“Over the years, a lot of people have told me that this was the song that they walked down the aisle to, but I never really had the heart to tell any of them,” she confessed).

Before pouring into “I Will Remember You,” her 1995 hit from The Brothers McMullen soundtrack, McLachlan also shared that, though she’s a self-proclaimed love song writer, she thrived on the “dark and depressing” components to her music, and it is very cathartic for her to perform; almost as if it frees her from any pain she might have once felt, cleansing her emotionally and reinvigorating her to be happy again.

Toggling between the piano and the guitar, McLachlan continued to reveal the intimate back stories that fueled each of 15-song set such as “Adia,” which is about stealing her best friend’s ex; “In Her Shoes,” which was inspired by the incredible bravery and heroism of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani student activist who refused to let a Taliban bullet stop her advocacy for human rights and female education; and “Beautiful Girl,” which is dedicated to her two daughters, who she continually strives to protect and encourage. (“Life’s a bumpy flight, and I want to give them a soft spot to land,” McLachlan said).

Though McLachlan disclosed it had been a while since she has toured and performed in concert, she seemed completely at ease, chatting casually between each song, as she sipped tea from a cozy-looking mug, as if she was catching up with friends she had not seen in years.

“Getting old is awesome, isn’t it?” McLachlan quipped as she explained why she has to sit while playing the guitar.

McLachlan capped her set with “Angel,” perhaps the most popular and enduring ballad of her prolific collection, (about the heroin overdose death of Jonathan Melvoin, the Smashing Pumpkins keyboardist), which propelled a rapid succession of standing ovations. Sustaining the whole-hearted momentum and emotive energy, McLachlan delved into a four-song encore set, including the audience-requested sing-along of “Ice Cream” and ending with a ukulele-enhanced “The Sound That Love Makes.”

Testimonial after testimonial, song after song, McLachlan led her fans to church, and it was truly magical.

Running Time: 1 hour and 45 minutes, with no intermission.

Sarah McLachlan performed for one night only on June 29, 2018, at The Music Center at Strathmore – 5301 Tuckerman Lane in North Bethesda, MD.  For future Strathmore events, check out their performance calendar online.

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