Canadian songstress Sarah McLachlan made a name for herself as a folk-pop singer-songwriter beginning in the late 1980s until a hiatus after her Lilith Fair tours and the birth of her daughter, India, a few years ago.
She's back to work now, and Wednesday night in her first Merriweather Post appearance since 1999, the three-time Grammy winner pointed to a new direction in her career, one that positions her firmly on the rosters of Adult Alternative radio stations that thrive on the sort of emotional, mid-tempo balladry of Natalie Merchant and Tori Amos. Any rootsy folk aspects of her music now are buried beneath layers of major-chord pop, where the melodic hooks are spaced far, far apart during the 41/2- minute numbers.
Backed by a seven-piece band -- including two keyboards and two electric guitars -- McLachlan sang flawlessly, demonstrating a remarkable vocal range on pleasant songs such as "Falling," "Adia" and "I Will Remember You." She played acoustic guitar, electric guitar and grand piano (sadly drowned out by too much reverb) with confidence. But her biggest attribute is her charm. She addressed the audience several times with heartfelt thanks for being there and candid explanations of the songs, and she playfully waved to fans holding signs, making friends with each smile.
Charm was necessary on this night. Since we regularly slam Nissan Pavilion in this space for its odious parking, let's examine the Merriweather Post experience. Ushers sent ticket holders to the wrong side of the arena; the unreasonable $20 ATM limit carries an offensive $4 charge; food was limited to sushi and pretzels at three of four stalls; overflowing toilets sent women to the paperless men's rooms. Contempt for the fans was palpable.
-- Buzz McClain
Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra
The Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra rolled into Wolf Trap on Wednesday with its "Broadway Babies" program, proving once again that Pops concerts are more often about the arrangements than the music itself.
A host of instantly recognizable Broadway tunes were, per Pops custom, tricked up into a sort of thinking man's easy listening. The chugging 1930s dance band rhythms of the title song from "42nd Street" were smoothed over into a '50s Pink Pantherish slither. The Overture to "Guys and Dolls" was made to sound as if Gershwin's American in Paris had wandered into a Times Square craps game. And while Sondheim's "No One Is Alone" survived the Living Strings treatment, "Sunrise, Sunset" came off as pure Muzak.
This orchestra is terrific at the musical Esperanto that crosses genres -- there was some sizzling brass playing in a set of songs from "Chicago" -- and Keith Lockhart conducted with unflappable poise (even lending his featherweight tenor to one number, and leading his players in a conga at the end of Act 1).
Faith Prince was her charming self in a dozen songs, her sweetly focused, cutie-pie belt making a novelty number like Sondheim's "The Boy From . . ." the hoot it should be. "The Ladies Who Lunch" and "If He Walked Into My Life" revealed an introspective mellowness in her voice, and tapped her considerable dramatic skills.
-- Joe Banno