IF YOU GO
What: “Sarah and Friends” featuring Sarah McLachlan with Butterfly Boucher and Melissa McClelland
When: 7:30 p.m. Jan. 5
Where: E.J. Thomas Hall, 198 Hill St., Akron
Tickets: $37.45 to $74.75 at Ticketmaster outlets
Info: 330-747-1212 in Youngstown or www.ticketmaster.com
By John Benson
An intimate evening among good friends with genuine moments and more is what Sarah McLachlan had in mind for her new tour, which rolls through Northeast Ohio for a Wednesday show at the University of Akron’s E.J. Thomas Hall.
Included on the “Sarah and Friends” bill are singer-songwriters Butterfly Boucher and Melissa McClelland. Even though the latter performer was a part of this past summer’s Lilith Fair, the Canadian native said performing with McLachlan is still a pretty surreal experience.
“Yeah, it’s pretty exciting for me because I listened to Sarah all through high school, and when I was just learning how to write songs, I was listening to her,” said McClelland, calling from outside Toronto. “And I went to Lilith Fair; I was in the audience the first time it went around, so it was pretty incredible to not only be up there backing her up, but to be up there singing her songs and having her back me up.”
McClelland’s ties to her idol started a few years ago when her husband, musician Luke Doucet, was performing on McLachlan’s “Afterglow” tour. At one point, the platinum artist needed a backup singer, and the struggling singer- songwriter volunteered her services. As for her own career, McClelland just released her third album, “Victoria Day.” Over the years, the artist has evolved from exploring pop sounds to becoming a roots rock artist.
She says the idea behind her latest effort was to create something that would be fun to play live with the stories and vocals taking the forefront. One of the album’s cornerstones is the track “Segovia,” which marked a new direction for McClelland. In fact, she rarely played the song out live. That is until this tour came around and McLachlan volunteered her musical assistance.
“I play it on piano, and I don’t typically or ever play piano in concert,” McClelland said. “So I guess I was intimidated, and obviously Sarah is a phenomenal piano player. So when she offered to play, it was a chance for me to just sing a song. I always have an instrument in my hand, and this was a chance for me to sing a song and just focus on the vocals. That’s a totally new experience for me. It sounds great.”
The program for the “Sarah and Friends” show finds all three playing two sets heavy on McLachlan’s material with each supporting artist playing a few of her own solo songs. When McCelland is asked what it’s like to be considered a friend of McLachlan’s, the singer tells a story from Lilith Fair that embodies not only the popular summer festival but what this current tour is all about.
McClelland said country singer Miranda Lambert brought a revamped ’70s Airstream trailer that apparently was the epicenter of Lilith Fair backstage shenanigans.
“The trailer was decked out,” McClelland said. “She had a taco stand and bar outside. This is amazing. She brings this on tour with her all of the time. And she had a sack of moonshine she brought from Texas. So after every show, we’d go sit in there, and Sarah would come, too. We’d have a guitar, and we’d all be packed into the trailer passing the guitar around playing old country standards and passing a bottle of moonshine around. I think that was a totally new experience for Sarah. I don’t think she’s really done too much of that kind of thing, just jamming. She just had so much fun that she wanted to do something like that for her next tour.”
Does that mean there will be plenty of moonshine flowing backstage at the Rubber City show?
Laughing, McClelland said, “I hope so.”