[the sea of waking dreams]

A Fair of the heart

Dixie Chicks, Crow highlight third, final fest

By JANE STEVENSON -- Toronto Sun

TORONTO -- As Lilith Fair bows out after its third, still-successful year, the popular "celebration of women in music," will be remembered primarly for one thing.

Vancouver-based founder Sarah McLachlan proved the male-dominated music industry oh-so-wrong by stacking a festival bill with just female artists and watching concertgoers gobble up the tickets in droves.

In fact, Lilith has been a sell-out event three summers running across North America and last night at the Molson Amphitheatre -- the first of a two-night stand in T.O. -- was no exception.


Joined by dynamic rock pixie Sheryl Crow, folk-rockers Indigo Girls, neo-country trio Dixie Chicks and local R & B sensation Deborah Cox, on the main stage -- two other smaller stages were also set up amongst stands offering everything from sushi to information about Planned Parenthood -- McLachlan revelled only slightly in the glory of her creation during a press conference earlier in the day.

"I don't know if it's a matter of needing it as much as wanting it," said McLachlan who also presented two local women's shelters with cheques for $15,000 apiece.

"For me, personally, this was a great way to get to know a lot of these artists who I've had a lot of admiration and respect for, it was just very selfish in the first place. And it's become a lot more than that and it's been amazing."

Otherwise, the performances on the main stage began way too slick -- with the smooth R &B music of Cox, who was dressed in a wild-looking, S & M-inspired catsuit of black latex-like leather complete with cuffs and a collar -- and ended somewhat somberly with McLachlan, who even recited part of a Leonard Cohen poem. (Who does she think she is -- Jewel?)


The night's strongest sets were smack dab in the middle with the one-two-three punch of the energetic, often hilarious Dixie Chicks, the jam-friendly Indigo Girls -- who had practically everyone on the bill join them on stage for one song or another -- and the simply awesome Crow.

Dixie Chicks spunky frontwoman Natalie Maines got the crowd of 16,000 riled up initially as she belted out songs alongside equally talented sisters Emily Erwin on banjo-dobro-and-acoustic-guitar and Martie Seidel on fiddle and mandolin.

Together, the glamorous-looking three women, dressed in matching black-and-silver outfits with white feather boas draped over their mic stands, literally shook up the amphitheatre with their 50-minute set.

In fact, the Chicks, who are in town just as Fly, the follow-up album to their multi-platinum debut, Wide Open Spaces, hits stores Aug. 31, recalled their equally stellar show at Massey Hall back in April.

Their set list included both older favourites like There's Your Trouble -- which included the inflation of three pink, phallic-like, wind socks -- You Were Mine, the anthemic Wide Open Spaces and new songs like Ready To Run and Sin Wagon.

For the latter song, whose catchy chorus goes, "praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!," Maines joked about getting a divorce after 18 months of marriage.

"I feel like a role model right now, I tell ya!" she said, before dedicating the next new song, Goodbye Earl, "to all the wife beaters out there!"

Hour-long set

As for Crow, she was the other female vocalist to beat as she pulled out all the stops during her sprited hour-long set that focused mainly on music from her latest two albums, including the most recent The Globe Sessions.

Dressed in a retro-David Bowie black T-shirt, black leather skirt and matching boots, Crow's hard rocking performance hit its peak during Everyday Is A Winding Road, with bongo playing by McLachlan's drummer-husband Ash Sood, the cello-and-violin-accompanied It Don't Hurt and the disco-inflected There Goes The Neighbourhood.

Meanwhile, McLachlan, who decided to pull the plug after this year's event in order to try and start a family with Sood, told the press conference she didn't know exactly when Lilith might resume.

Anywhere from three to five, to 10 years has been suggested.

McLachlan just said her main hope was that the term "female artist" might be wiped out in the future and replaced with just plain "artist."

"I hope that we're heading towards a time when women can truly be seen and treated as equals and you know there's arguments on both sides on whether this helps that or hinders it because we are separating ourselves doing this," she said.

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