I liked Adia. I liked it a lot when it came out and still do. But not enough to hear it twenty times over in quick succession which is basically what you get with this DVD release of the Lilith Fair founding Canadian's Afterglow tour.
Sarah McLachlan is a bit like Sheryl Crow without the occasionally catchy melodies or the sly lyrics about getting stoned. Each song sounds a bit like the one that came before: beautifully sung but bland as can be. Even when she ups the tempo on Train Wreck and Stupid it's not that noticeable; Aida had a sweet sincerity that cut through my adolescent cynicism but two hours of earnest balladeering is a little more than I can take.
Filmed in Toronto, on a stage seemingly covered with bits of turf, the concert was part of an international major venue tour earlier this year. Though prone to occasional vocal acrobatics McLachlan is an undeniably talented performer, accomplished on both piano and guitar. But four songs into her slickly recorded set and my mind's already wandering. I keep being distracted by her outfit, a strange glittery tunic thing with transparent bits, and her oddly disjointed hand movements, which are a wee bit like the "wax on, wax off" scene from the Karate Kid movies.
In addition to the concert you get the usual DVD extras, lyrics and a photo gallery plus a glossy behind the scenes doc filled with lots of shots of Sarah walking her dog through Vancouver's Lighthouse Park and boating with her mates. She talks about what it's like to be a new mum on the road and speaks in an earnest, hippyish manner about "energy" and "calming forces." The most interesting part of the whole thing is the discovery that her impish, mad-eyed drummer is also her boyfriend.
The DVD bonus material features the videos for Fallen, Stupid and World on Fire. The latter is particularly interesting, mixing no-frills footage of Sarah and her guitar with an outline of a typical music video's production costs and illustrations of what this money could buy in various poverty-stricken areas around the world. (These costs were then donated to a number of charities including Comic Relief and War Child.) If this sounds rather preachy, that's because it is, but at least it's refreshing in its global outlook even if the song itself is the drippiest look-at-the-mess-we're-in lament I've heard in some time. The video for Stupid is also worth watching to see Sarah, in a variety of period outfits, being tormented by a man with truly atrocious hair.
The DVD is also accompanied by an edited CD version of the same concert. With some of the flabbier numbers stripped away this is a far more appealing proposition then the concert footage itself, though you do lose her pretty reworking of The Beatles' Blackbird. However, with solid extras and high production values throughout, if you're a McLachlan fan, you could do worse than invest in a copy of Afterglow.