Sarah McLaughlin at the Santa Barbara Bowl
Paul Wellman

Sarah McLachlan has been bewitching listeners for more than two decades — which is no easy feat in the fickle world of pop music. While she has consistently created strong records, it’s in concert that the chanteuse really shines, as she proved once again at the Bowl last Wednesday.

On tour to promote her eighth studio album, Shine On, McLachlan was the evening’s only act, which allowed plenty of time for her 24-song set that showcased new numbers as well as old favorites. She opened with a fresh tune from Shine On, “Flesh and Blood,” followed by the 1998 Grammy Award winning “Building a Mystery,” “In Your Shoes,” from 2010’s Laws of Illusion, Adia (Surfacing), and the sweetly comforting “Answer” off of Afterglow.

The night carried on with an easy interweaving of hits and freshly penned pieces that highlighted McLachlan astonishing vocal command. With her mezzo-soprano range, the singer can conjure any number of emotions — from low-register auditory caresses (“Angel,” “I Will Remember You”) to the high notes of a siren’s song (“Fear”).

Between the music, the Canadian charmed the audience with her witty banter and unabashed openness. One of her goals for the tour was to include the crowd in the evening. “How do I bring you a little more on stage,” she mused, followed by the answer: “I brought my living room with me.” So, at certain points in the evening, McLachlan answered questions from fans — e.g., What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s happened to you while performing? “I fell on my ass once while strutting across the stage singing “Sweet Surrender,” she said laughing, blaming the fall on her silly footwear choices of the 1990s — to inviting local winners of her social media contest to sit on the stage, which offered two couches and strings of little white lights for ambiance.

While the chitchat made for an intimate affair, the power of McLachlan’s music was what made the night. After a two-hour set, the singer finished the show with a four-song encore and a well-earned standing ovation. It was enchanting occasion on a beautiful summer’s eve in the presence of a musical angel.


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