[the sea of waking dreams]

LIlith Fair tour knocks rock's roll

All-women's fest of soft, melodic music is proving to be a top draw

Toronto Star, August 11, 1997, Page A1

By Betsy Powell
Pop Music Critic

Tapping into an audience that shuns rock's excesses, Lilith Fair, the summer's most talked-about concert tour, has turned into the season's biggest draw in North America.

"It's great to celebrate female acts," said Christina Prozes, a 35-year-old administrative assistant who is only too happy to steer clear of sweaty, aggression-filled mosh pits and head instead to Sarah McLachlan's all-women fest at the Molson Amphitheatre this weekend.

"The big hype in the music industry is about women performers like Spice Girls, Céline Dion, Shania Twain and Alanis Morissette," Prozes said. "That doesn't really address me. They're too commercial, too mainstream pop."

McLachlan, one of Canada's top singers, said she conceived Lilith Fair as a way of creating a sense of community "that I don't think exists within the sister of new music."

She's seen the event grow from a few isolated performances last year to a North American sensation this summer.

Named after an ancient Biblical character -- Lilith, a women of rabbinic legend, is sometimes considers to be history's first feminist -- the show appeals to a good number of people who enjoy soft, melodic sounds.

"I'm quite pleased my eardrums won't be blown by the end," says Anjula Gogia. The 26-year-old book buyer, who can't remember the last concert she paid to see, will be at the lakeside venue this weekend with her sister, Nupur.

Ticket sales tell the tale.

The first 11 cities on the Lilith tour, which kicked off July 5 in George, Wash., sold an average 16,052 tickets per night to gross an average $478,022 (U.S.). Just compare that to Lollapalooza -- in its seventh year -- which averaged sales of 10,520 tickets on its first 14 dates to gross $277,542 (U.S.).

"The women carried the summer," says Gary Bongiovanni, editor-in-chief of Pollstar, a concert industry magazine. "Ultimately it was the best package of acts presented to the public... and part of it may be just a general change in the kind of music that's become popular."

There is a strong correlation between the names on the top of today's pop charts and the women of Lilith. McLachlan's latest CD, Surfacing, debuted at No. 2 on the U.S. Billboard album chart after selling 161,000 copies in its first week. She's the tour's one constant on the ever-changing lineup of more than 50 female performers.

Also on deck for Toronto's Friday and Saturday dates are singer-songwriters Meredith Brooks, who has a hit with "Bitch," and Shawn Colvin, riding a career high with "Sunny Came Home". Alaskan pop-folkie Jewel barely needs an introduction after selling 5 million copies of her debut CD, Pieces of You. Indigo Girls are also on the mainstage while three Canadian-based acts are booked on the "B-Stage," Lhasa, Dayna Manning, and the Wild Strawberries. The linupe for a third "village stage" is still to be announced.

However, one of the criticisms levelled at Lilith is that the female contingent, while made up of big names, doesn't represent a wide diversity of musical styles, especialy harder-edged acts.

Rather than knock Lilith for being too soft, book buyer Gogia directs her criticism toward the complexion of the lineup, which she feels doesn't include enough women musicians of color.

"There's quite a few in the States and Canada that could have been added to the bill, and I'm not sure why they weren't added," she said. "It should have been pushed even further and that's probably one of the biggest disappointments of the festival."

Terry McBride, McLachlan's manager and president of her record label, Vancouver-based Nettwerk Records, says Lilith's success confirms what McLachlan speculated going into it. There's an appetite for live music in a concert setting that caters to an audience uninterested in testosterone-charged rock.

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