Of course this is pre-YouTube, pre-listening stations at music stores—almost? I may have just not discovered those yet. But! I was a member of a cassette-tape club—yes, a tape club. I’m feeling older by the second, and hoping I don’t reveal what a total dork I am by the end this post. Point is, my very next tape order was Sarah McLachlan’s “Fumbling Towards Ecstasy” and it was love at first listen, which is really an understatement. I’ve never done heroin, but I suspect the way I feel after having that album on repeat all day comes close. Fortunately, I now have the CD, but I kept the tape for sentimental reasons. Sounding dorky again, moving on…
Despite being known as the "Hold On" girl to my entire apartment building because I often belted that song while my windows were open, I had never been to a Sarah McLachlan concert until this past November. Well, I saw her briefly in (1999?) at the original Lilith Fair. But it’s just not the same when you’re sitting on a grassy hill a million miles from the stage, and the performer only does a few songs while most people are wandering around, talking and spilling slushies on your blanket. Just didn’t do it for me, ya know? So getting seats so close to the stage at an intimate venue, the former (and 2nd) home of The Grand Ole Opry, Ryman Auditorium, in Nashville, TN was OUT OF THIS WORLD.
Wide, carpeted, steep stairs go up to the second floor where the back hall showcases the announcement posters for many of the big names who’ve performed there. Love Patty Griffin! Inside the auditorium, Johnny Cash’s old clothes are on display. And people act really weird if you pretend like you’re going to jump off the balcony. Kidding—we didn’t do that. Maybe. Back down in the main-floor lobby, near the refreshment concessions, there are weird bronze statues (aren’t they all?) of Minnie Pearl and Roy Acuff sitting on a bench. And inside the auditorium, tall and narrow, solid-colored stained-glass windows cover the back wall and there are wood pews throughout. It was built to be a church, and is probably why it came to be known as “The Mother Church of Country Music.”
Showtime... Lights go down, a large, leaded-glass lantern is glowing above the stage, and Sarah enters stage-left wearing tight black jeans, rockin’ leather boots, a red tank-top and a black vest. She takes a couple steps then trips over some cords. Fumbling toward (no pun intended) center stage, she recovers before falling and does a curtsy. So adorable. To all you klutzes out there who know what I’m talking about, if I wasn’t before, I’m definitely in love now. She sings immediately, just as good live, if not better than a recording, and I think I may float out a stained-glass window before the end of the show. Next order of business, she introduces the two girls on stage with her, (seemingly backup singers) Butterfly Boucher and Melissa McClelland, but they turn out to be younger artists with fairly new bands of their own. And instead of the usual opening-act formula, McLachlan keeps them on stage with her for the entire show, which includes hilarious banter in response to audience questions. And Boucher and McClelland perform their own songs while McLachlan sings backup. So cool.
Nothing is cooler than strong, talented, creative women on stage, singing and playing instruments, especially guitar. Not as a part of the “pop-music machine” but as truly gifted and inspired artists, writing and performing their own music, selling out venues—and not as opening acts for male musicians! Considering that less than 200 years ago, women weren’t allowed to get college degrees, and less than a hundred years ago, we weren’t even allowed to vote—not to mention the eyesore “Confederate Gallery” sign hanging on the balcony—sitting there, then standing and screaming, then sitting, and standing again, I couldn’t help thinking how lucky I am to experience such an inspiring time when women have so many opportunities to influence and uplift others through artistic expression.
And wouldn’t that be a lovely note to end on!? Yes, but first I have to flick all you flash-photography users on the nose. Ahem, don’t do it! The flash is useless at a concert unless you’re standing right next to the stage!! Unless you want a dark picture that might as well be blank, then go right ahead. For tips on concert photography, click here. Please. And props to local photographer, Jillian Arciero, for the amazing picture in my first paragraph! (The rest are mine. :) Now back to wrapping up my tribute to amazing music…