Lilith Fair Saturday, July 5, The Gorge
The concert was more acoustic-based introspection than it was rock and roll frenzy.
And although the music simmered often, only rarely did it heat to a full boil.
But if the first all-woman music festival known as Lilith Fair didn’t rock out the way its male counterparts do, well, that’s OK.
It was never intended to.
Judging from the Lilith Fair’s first showing, however, it did achieve exactly what its founder wanted.
It proved to the music industry that the public will pay to hear one superb musician after another - even if they are all girls.
Lilith Fair was created by singer Sarah McLachlan - known for folk-laden tunes like “Possession” and “Good Enough” - after she observed the masculinity of Lollapalooza-like festival lineups.
And for eight hours Saturday in front of a capacity crowd, the Gorge became a showbox for some of the prime female voices in the music business - Jewel, McLachlan and Tracy Chapman among them.
Theirs were earnest voices, unafraid to wrap their emotions about them like a sarong.
They sang about poverty and child abuse, about domestic violence and divorce. Jewel told the audience about a friend who committed suicide because he was fat and thought no one would love him.
For all its serious mindedness, the concert also had the feel of a joyously-overgrown slumber party. With women sitting cross-legged in the grass at her feet, McLachlan started off the event mid-afternoon with an intimate acoustic set on a small side stage.
Nearby a skin care company blanketed the crowd with samples of “Pore Perfect,” an adhesive strip that plucks blackheads from clogged nose flesh. At The Love Tent, vendors hawked flowing cotton dresses. A shoe manufacturer was on hand with the latest in fashionable footwear.
The second stage performers offered up the heaviest musical dose while combating clipping winds and a sound system that made it seem as though they sang through jello.
Leah Andreone’s nimble voice pierced with aching conviction on “It’s Alright, It’s OK” and a cover of Nirvana’s “Come As You Are.”
On the main stage, Suzanne Vega opened with favorites like “Luka” and “Tom’s Diner,” while Paula Cole thumped the audience with rousing versions of “Tiger” and “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?”
Jewel’s warbly vocal gymnastics were right on with their clarity and near childlike purity in songs like “Who Will Save Your Soul.”
Although McLachlan deserves heaps of praise for being forward thinking enough to put together such a festival, the headlining spot should have gone to Tracy Chapman.
Chapman’s fantastically energetic set had the crowd on its feet with blues-licked songs like “Give Me One Reason.” She was cheered back on for an encore.
Although dulcetly executed, McLachlan’s closing set ended the evening on a mellow note. Still, the crowd was polite enough to cheer her on for an encore as well.
In truth, the main stage was heavy on heart-felt folk style rock to a flaw. Jewel hit it on the head when, upon picking up a new instrument, she joked, “Oh God, I have an electric guitar in my hands.”
And although the festival was created to celebrate women in music, all of the main acts were backed by all-male bands - except McLachlan who had one female vocalist.
It would have been nice to see an all-woman band in the lineup. L7 or Babes in Toyland - although out of place with their aggressive anger-driven racket - would have been a welcome change of pace.
Of course, no matter what headway McLachlan and crew make for womankind with Lilith Fair, it seems some things will never change: Visits to the portable restrooms found that the men still forgot to put the toilet seats down.