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Lilith Fair at Ambleside Park


Sarah McLachlan at Lilith Fair, July 1 2010. Jade Dempsey photo.

Review and photos – Lilith Fair at Ambleside Park, West Vancouver, July 1 2010

review by Ria Nevada/photos by Jade Dempsey

After an 11-year hiatus, Sarah McLachlan must have realized that fans across North America were good and ready for a revival of Lilith Fair. With a bevy of new female acts on the rise, and some legendary artists dishing out new releases, the tour was practically begging to be reborn. Even on the bus to the venue, groups of girlfriends in matching Canada Day outfits and temporary tattoos were already stirring about seeing their old and new faves, and formulating their dream setlists.

A few weeks before the show, it had been announced that the fair would take place in Ambleside Park as opposed to the larger, Pitt Meadows Venue. While this did raise some concern about the amount of interest the tour was generating, ultimately, it was the smarter and better choice. Right by the beach, and in full view of Vancouver’s sprawling mountains, Ambleside provided a comfortable and welcoming environment for 9600 concert-goers (the gloomy weather, on the other hand, was less accommodating).

As I entered the gates, I was immediately drawn to the Village stage upon hearing the velvety voice of one of the tour’s fresher faces, Ali Milner, as she sang the soulful, poppy number “I Wanna Be Loved by You”.  The Whistler native took the time to quiz her American bandmates about some imperative Canadian trivia, such as the definition of a Canadian tuxedo before displaying her jazzy vocals and piano skills on “Lost My Diamond”.  More of her finger-snapping tunes can be heard on her latest album, I Dare You.

Soon after staking my territory on the lawn, I wandered off to find the elusive Kate Miller-Heidke. Upon reaching the B stage, she immediately caught my eye in an acid-blue, ’80s inspired prom sort of ensemble. But what was more attention-grabbing was the incredible vocal control she displayed on numbers such as “You Don’t Even Know My Name” and “Words”. At one point, she held an impossibly high note for a good 36 seconds, followed by growling “I love you” in an angry Cookie Monster voice. Her comedic lyrics, mixed with flapper style, and operatic dynamics had me thinking she was Weird Al Yankovic’s far better looking, stylish and talented Australian cousin. She secured more laughs – and a few friend requests, I imagine – with “Are You Fucking Kidding Me (The Facebook Song)”.

Next up was Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, featuring a bluesy-vintage rock sound that has earned them mainstream notoriety over the past year. In matching retro blazers and long, polished hair, the gorgeous group was the image of the hip ’70s scene. They began their set with the pulsating bass line and strong, steady drumming of “Gumbo Moon”, erupting with Potter’s monstrously powerful voice.

Their wall of sound carried through the entire park, turning heads in their direction, and temporarily calming the appetites of those waiting in line at the concession stands. Potter exhibited her undeniable vocal talent as she delivered an a capella performance of “Nothing But the Water”. At that moment, she owned the stage. Nothing could distract from her soulful and pitch-perfect display. She and the Nocturnals continued to allure the crowd with foot-stompers like “Goodbye Kiss”, “Paris, Oh La La”, and a worthy cover of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit”.

Extremely impressed by the first few artists, I was anticipating the more established heavy-hitters that would soon follow on the main stage. First up was Colbie Caillat, famous for her acoustic-pop hit “Bubbly” and conveying girl-next door appeal. While she certainly evoked a squeaky-clean charm and poise on stage, she unfortunately did not convey as much personality as her other Lilith compatriots. The best I could say is that she has a pretty voice and a youthful appeal, but that she seems to lack the uniqueness and charisma that other acts on the bill possess.

It also did not help that she preceded Erykah Badu. The legendary poet-songstress made her entrance to a bebop bass riff. Appearing in a satin top-hat and trench to match her eclectic musical style, she started off with the hip hop/spoken word/funk tune, “Certainly”, and showed off her improvisational skills during a scat interlude. She slowed things down as she evocatively sang “I die for you, I cry for you… leap off the ledge for you” to a lovelorn piano. The song was drenched in spirituality and sincerity, as is Badu’s approach to her art. At the press conference held before her set, she confessed, “This is therapy. This is love. It feeds our families, it feeds our souls.” This attitude, paired with her originality, heard on tracks such as “On and On” and “The Healer”, should continue to inspire hip hop and female artists for years to come.

Lilith alumnus Sheryl Crow followed Badu with a series of chart-topping hits that shed some warmth on the overcast day. She looked effortlessly elegant and laid-back, as per usual, churning out break-up anthems like “First Cut is the Deepest”, “My Favorite Mistake” and “If It Makes You Happy”. I for one sang along to every tune, and I was surprised to see the sprinkle of men in the crowd doing the same. Vocally, she did not match the chops of the new kids on the tour bus, but she exhibited ease and comfort that highlighted the wealth of experience under her belt.

Sugarland was a syrupy treat for the country fans in the audience. The band definitely pulled the diverse audience together and got them shaking their behinds, a feat no other act could accomplish that day. Lead singer Jennifer Nettles enamored audiences with her cheerfulness and adorable Southern twang through honky-tonk songs like “Everyday America”, “Baby Girl” and “All I Want To Do”.

As the skies darkened, it began to feel like a happening campfire had begun at Ambleside Park. Sugarland then indulged listeners with country covers of top 40 hits like Beyonce’s “All the Single Ladies” and Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline”, causing a group of adorable five-year-olds to break out dance moves they must have stolen from So You Think You Can Dance. They successfully brought out the tribal spirit of the festival.

After a brief intermission, the woman of the hour, Sarah McLachlan, finally ascended onto the main stage. Her soothing voice and lyrical piano playing on “Arms of an Angel” immediately soothed the crowd after Sugarland’s jittery set. Very few artists have the pacifying effect of this ’90s folk icon. Sensing the admiration from her fans, she waxed poetic about the beautiful BC backyard, and the amount of patriotism she felt on her nation’s birthday. She even boldly claimed, “I’m done playing anywhere else!”, much to the appreciation of her fellow Vancouverites.

Glowing in a single spotlight, she captivated audiences with more passionate ballads such as “I Will Remember You” and “Adia”.  She also previewed a few songs off her latest record, Laws of Illusion, beginning with the frothy single Loving You is Easy”.  The bouncy tune takes cues from artists like Regina Spektor and Feist, and is an unexpected, but refreshing departure from her more subdued body of work. McLachlan spoke about how rejuvenating it is to be surrounded by newer acts, providing her with a “musical education” of sorts.  Her call for a greater sense of artistic community and female camaraderie was heard loud and clear in Vancouver, and will continue in major cities of North America over the summer.

More Lilith Fair 2010 photos:

14 responses to “Lilith Fair at Ambleside Park

  1. 10 years ago  

    I was so disappointed after having paid almost $200 for tickets for myself and my daughter for our general admission. The stage was so far away it was impossible to see anyone on it with a huge screen blocking most of the view. The sound was terrible. the bass drowned out the singers. The seating was on the grass and it was very cold that day for a grass seat. The lines were so long for food or drinks that we waited forever for tickets to get the food or drinks then had to wait almost 3 hours for anything except ice cream. We were packed in like sardines with no where to stand or sit. The crowds in the park outside the gated area had better seats than we did and got to hear the concert for free! I would love to get my money back and have vowed never to go to another Lilith concert again.

  2. 10 years ago  

    I agree- worse yet i spent 600 for two tickets.
    and I feel more ripped of then ever and I go to many concerts- the artists could have sang more of their songs- they did one song together- unorganized-terrible food, a line up for beer that looked like Justin beiber must have been at the end of it – INSANE and
    600 $ one week I worked for just to have not
    one moment of musical elation- I hope Sarah- I will not buy one of your songs now just cause I feel like you have already taken too much of my money.

  3. 10 years ago  

    I agree wholeheartedly with Marilyn’s comments. It was the worst outdoor concert I have ever been to (out of many over thirty years), for all of the reasons she mentioned. The organization of pretty well everything was terrible, although certainly not the fault of the hard-working musicians. Despite having spent around $100 for a ticket, I couldn’t take it anymore and left at 6:30. I would love to have heard Sarah McLachlan, but not enough to spend four more miserable hours there. As I made my way back toward Marine Drive, I noticed that the sound outside the venue, by the railway tracks, was far better than inside.

  4. 10 years ago  

    What kind of concert do you pay $100 to sit in the freezing dark & to not even see the stage and performers?

    Honestly, I was in shock that I paid for this when I got there. It was so poorly set up. Not what I signed up for on my special Canada day off. Shame on the shitty organizers. Not enough food, Couldn’t stand without 19 year old security freaking out, too pricey. Left feeling bad about the day. I have never been to Lilith before and I will never ever go again. There is something wrong when an actually good concert becomes bad because you can’t see the show and can’t afford the $200 – $600 seating area. 90% of people had no view of the stage unless you paid $200+ for a ticket. Sarah, why did we not get what we paid for?? I could have sat at the park for free at listened to the concert (at least you get a view of the ocean). What about the three building scaffolding tent that covered the view of the stage for 90% of the fans. The tower shined a few useless pink lights on a movie canvas that said Lillith. It was pointless & sad that so many people didn’t see the actual concert as a result of this oversight. There was no prior schedule (so people like came too early unnecessarily and starved). The only lame excuse at the door was we changed venues.

    Hearing Sarah beautiful sultry voice & graciousness made up for it. The fans who paid and came to support this event didn’t even get to see her and how amazing the artists were. Sarah, is great but if you want your fans to return to your concert, you need to take care of your fans better – We are from your city! What a complete let down for literally almost everyone.

  5. 10 years ago  

    Agree with all the above comments. I thought I had it been had paying $100 for a ticket. I would add to the comments that if you can’t provide food at the concession stands in a timely manner, then DON’T confiscate food from the ticket holders at the gate. What a waste 8 sub sandwiches in the garbage can and then a 2 hr wait to buy overpriced garbage food. Way to go, I will be sure to come back to the next concert at Ambleside (NOT). Also, at the end of the concert there was no lighting out of the park and absolutely black on the walkway back to Park Royal. Last the music and the artists. There was no way to see the stage unless you were in the VIP section. Things were getting nasty as the crowd came to there feet and moved fwd for Sara McLoughlin finale. Not to worry all those security guards made themselves scarce at any sign of a melee. So sad as my group has been looking fwd to this concert since Apr and the dismal time was not due to the weather but the poorly organization of this concert. Count me in the ripped off group.


  6. 10 years ago  

    > What kind of concert do you pay $100
    > to sit in the freezing dark

    It seems important to point out here that unless there have been significant advances in Mad Science on Sarah McLachlan’s part, the “cold” and “dark” parts were not under the control of the Lilith Fair organizers. When you buy a ticket for an outdoor concert, this is a risk you take.

    It poured buckets at Wilco’s Olympic show, but I’m not blaming Jeff Tweedy or John Furlong for it.

    Well, maybe Furlong. But whatever…

    As for venue size, these are big name artists with a big venue. I’m not sure what you expected, but this is why I don’t go see stadium shows anymore.

  7. 10 years ago  

    Hi Darcy ~ The issue is we paid hard earned $$ to actually see a concert. We did not see a concert and get what we paid for. Even at free olympic shows’ you could see the concert and the performers. They had tv screens there worked. Lilith had nothing of that sort. Something is terribly wrong when only 600 people get to see the concert that they paid for out of 9600 people.

    True – though I probably won’t go again to any stadium outdoor event as a result.

  8. 10 years ago  

    Thanks for the feedback, and I guess I understand. The only point I fundamentally disagreed with was the weather one.

    On my second point I really just meant to point out that great expectations can lead to disappointment. I wasn’t there, so can’t speak to it personally. Y’all seem pretty much universally disappointed so maybe that’s a truth.

    Ticket prices high that deserve high expectations, and they should be met.

    Lilith is having problems, and Nettwerk is blaming them on the economy. Perhaps they should look inwards at their own flaws first.

  9. 10 years ago  

    I for one had a great time at this wonderful outdoor concert. I sat on the grass and had no problem seeing the stage. The music was incredible and we had plenty of opportunity to see all 11 acts. The weather was not a problem as it was neither too hot or cold and did not rain. What a bonus! Line-ups for food and drinks are always a problem at any large gathering and is something you just have to accept. It has nothing to do with Sarah but with the vendors.

    I came for the music and the talent this year was remarkable! We had 8 hours of music from 11 amazing artists all for the price of one. What more could you hope for??

    I look forward for the next Lilith Fair!!

  10. 10 years ago  

    I was blown away by the mega talent at this year’s Lilith Fair. I discovered new (to me) artists that exceeded all my expectations of enjoying a high standard of musical presenters. I couldn’t believe how comfortable I was as the weather held on just for us! It was mild and didn’t get dark until right at the end of this incredible concert! This tends to happen at night.

    My friends and I laughed ourselves silly with the humour and wonderful antics of these dedicated artists. Without them there would be no Lilith Fair. As outdoor concerts go, it was the best I’ve ever attended.

    A few artists I’d like to make special mention of apart from the obviously gifted headliners like the wonderfully sensitive Sarah McLachlan and cool rocker Sheryl Crow, are delightful surprises like the genius Australian artist Kate Miller-Heidke and the irrepressible Grace Potter and her night-dwelling band The Nocturnals. Steph MacPherson also impressed with her mature and sensitive vocals. Sugarland was well… Sugarland. Dynamic, energetic and oh so naughty lol I loved it all. Every artist brought to bear with their best and I felt privileged to be able to hear and see it all. Even being able to meet some of those great performers in person, was such a bonus for me.

    I’m 5’4″ and I saw everything I needed to, to have a fantastic time! Thank you Sarah McLachlan for believing we would come. We love you!
    Skye Ryan-Evans

  11. 10 years ago  

    This concert was one of the best ones I’ve been to in a long time (and I’ve been to a lot of shows!!) I loved the music and high-energy the performers put in their sets. Very gifted artists!! and this is what we came for. Not food…not drinks…not weather…but for great music and great memories! We got both! Actually the weather was ideal too! The musicians did everything they were expected to do and more. I couldn’t have been more impressed with this outdoor experience! Great fun all round!!

    Thanks for a good time Sarah and fellow musicians. Jody 🙂

  12. 10 years ago  

    I think you make a great point comparing Kate’s comedic performance to Weird Al, except she has the cute aussie humor. haha Did she happen to tell the story about the woman questioning her hair color? That’s my favorite! I will support Kate always and her voice is incredible.

  13. 10 years ago  

    Musically, it was a great concert. The general admission area wasn’t great, but we were able to find a spot near the front of the lawn area after leaving the Grace Potter venue a bit early to beat the rush. Anyone stuck in the middle or back part of the lawn would have needed binoculars to see anything. The gate attendant turned a blind eye as my girlfriend brought in some of our own food. No doubt he knew how hopeless the concessions were. Weatherwise, it was good we had jackets, but it at least stayed dry.

  14. 10 years ago  

    I got to meet Kate Miller-Heidke after her show. Like Nikki Yanofsky (whom I also got to meet barely 24hrs later at the Victoria Jazzfest; how’s that for hitting on divas!) she’s not only a great talent, but great fun to talk to as well. Told her she was f***ing great (Kate used the word before I did!) & she laughed & took it as a compliment. Her autographed CD will be one of my treasures!

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