Performers, Fans Warm Up At Lilith Fair
St. Louis Post-Dispatch - Thu 6 Aug 1998
"Female empowerment," "diversity," "sisterhood," "celebration," and "revolutionary" were all buzzwords fitting the Lilith Fair, the all-female concert festival that made a stop Tuesday night at Riverport Amphitheatre.
But words like "sweltering," "sweaty" and "balmy" worked just as well as artists spent as much time commenting on the heat as they did discussing how wonderful Lilith Fair is.
With all sorts of beverages flowing and a mist station where sun-baked fans could cool off at least until they stepped away from the mist station, the Lilith Fair was able to keep its purpose up front. And that aim was to reject the notion that two females on the same bill is one female too many.
Sarah McLachlan, Natalie Merchant, Bonnie Raitt, Des'ree and Liz Phair, performed separately and in various combinations during the six-hour-plus concert. But it all moved efficiently and swiftly, thanks to shorter sets and clockwork pacing.
Victoria Williams, N'dea Davenport (substituting for Diana King) and Catie Curtis had things covered on the main stage, while Drugstore, India Aria and Robynn Ragland handled the village stage.
McLachlan, in St. Louis just last April, still managed to thrill. By the time her set rolled around, she'd already been on stage twice, but this didn't diminish her appearance. "Ice Cream" still melted in the hands of fans, who also gave in to "Sweet Surrender." A reworked "Possession" let McLachlan rock out just a little bit, while "Building a Mystery" and "Angel" helped display a gorgeous voice. Raitt joined McLachlan on guitar for "Elsewhere," which McLachlan dedicated to the teen-agers in the audience.
Merchant, former 10,000 Maniacs singer, performed as if she's ready to headline Lilith. She entertained easily on the lovely "Life Is Sweet," a song that made you believe life really is all that. More well-known were popular tunes such as the opening "Wonder," which began with Merchant mostly solo at the piano, and "Carnival," which brought out her out-of-control dancing.
While singing "Jealousy," she let her hair down, literally, picking at her pinned-up style until all of her hair flowed freely. The thunderous drumming during "Ophelia" was the perfect complement to Merchant's haunting vocals and the lightning streaking through the dark sky.
McLachlan and Raitt gave background support on "Kind & Generous," while Davenport, formerly of the Brand New Heavies, joined Merchant on "Break Your Heart." Merchant even retreated momentarily to the piano and let Davenport sing alone. Merchant and Davenport quickly dipped into an a cappella version of the Temptations' "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone."
Raitt, representing the mother-like figure of this troupe, had the whole blues-rock thing firmly within her grasp on songs such as "I Got to Find Me a Good Man," "Spit of Love" and "The Fundamental Things." Raitt enthralled the crowd with the ballad "I Can't Make You Love Me," and had a rollicking good time on "Something to Talk About." "Love Letter" let her get good and funky.
British soul singer Des'ree debuted some of the plush R&B grooves found on her upcoming album "Supernatural" including first single "Life" and album cut "What's Your Sign." But songs from the graceful, sinewy singer's earlier breakthrough album "I Ain't Movin' " - "Feels So High" and her signature "You Gotta Be" - were what fans were waiting for.
Rock darling Phair, who seems to do very little that's wrong musically, got the main stage started during the late afternoon with the day's truest rock edge. Her uncompromising sounds, as Raitt's song title would say later that night, were something to talk about. New songs such as "Polyester Bride" and "Uncle Alvarez" begged for more.
The village area of the concert remained busy, and it wasn't because that's where concessions were found. The area was bustling with a variety of vendors ranging from the crass (a Starbucks coffee joint and a mini-Tower Records store selling only CDs by female artists), to the fashionable (racks and racks of summer dresses, and tons of silver, Afr ican and American Indian jewelry).
Fans could also find nude incense holders, belly chains and toe rings, hemp jewelry, temporary tattoos, candle holders and picture frames, and bumper stickers (including one with an Elvis Presley photo and the caption underneath reading "I'm dead" here).
And causes were important too. On hand were the Breast Cancer Fund, Lifebeat (the music industry's AIDS-battling organization), the Legal Advocates for Abused Women, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, and a voter registration booth.
Webmaster Julian C. Dunn ([email protected])