Call Lilith Fair whatever you want (and critics of last year's tour had plenty of names for it--Breast Fest, Lesbopalooza, etc.). What you can most certainly call it is a success. The all-woman tour, founded by Sarah McLachlan and named after a reference to Adam's first wife in Jewish mythology, is back this year at Desert Sky Pavilion on Sunday, June 28. Along with McLachlan, the show's main-stage lineup will feature Natalie Merchant, Indigo Girls, Erykah Badu, and Liz Phair (Phair is a late replacement for Sheryl Crow, who had canceled).
As was the case last year, there will also be a second and third stage featuring a mix of up-and-coming artists. The Phoenix show will include K's Choice, N'Dea Davenport, Angelique Kidjo, and Saturday Night Live regular Ana Gasteyer. (Fans of SNL will remember that Gasteyer and Sarah McLachlan performed a skit together when McLachlan was a guest on the show last November.) Although McLachlan had considered adding men as headliners, the tour remains, at least for this year, all women.
This is probably just as well. Lilith Fair was the biggest moneymaker of all the package tours last summer, and, as they say, if it ain't broke. . . . With no Lollapalooza tour for competition, and coming on the heels of a recently released double live CD of last year's highlights, Lilith Fair '98 could enjoy even more success. (For another story about Lilith Fair, see page 95.)
Some anal-retentive music types may have complained about the lack of diversity of last year's tour, and maybe the lineup was a bit heavy on the folk-tinged pop of artists such as McLachlan, Jewel, Shawn Colvin, and Indigo Girls. Remember, though, that artists such as Erykah Badu and Bjork were invited last year, but declined because of scheduling conflicts. Besides, it would be interesting to see the kind of crowd that would come to a show with, say, Jewel and L7 on the same bill. The Lilith organizers knew their target audience well, and people turned out half a million strong to see the tour's 35 shows last year. This year, the tour is even bigger, making 57 stops across the continent over 10 weeks.
The critics should be appeased--there won't be a problem with diversity this year. Several of last year's performers are back, including Lisa Loeb, Emmylou Harris, and Paula Cole, but there are many new faces as well. Some of the artists scheduled to perform on various dates this time around run the gamut from pop (Luscious Jackson) to country (Martina McBride) and even rap (Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott), with veteran crowd favorites such as Bonnie Raitt and Cowboy Junkies also scheduled to appear.
Why was Lilith Fair so commercially successful last year? For one thing, the all-female tour seemed to tap into a segment of the concertgoing public that felt alienated by the other showcase festivals. The tour aimed to draw women, naturally, and by and large the audiences were primarily female, but men discovered they could have just as good a time at the show. And for any men worried that an all-woman concert would be a male-bashing fest, rest assured that last year's was nothing of the sort.
Perhaps the thing that best sums up the success of Lilith Fair is the feel-good atmosphere. It's one of the few concert events where you can see parents with small children alongside nose-pierced teenagers, and no one looks out of place. And in an era where many people attend this sort of concert as much for the spectacle as for the music, it was a delight to attend last year's show and see people who actually sat in their seats and listened! No matter what anyone says about the diversity of the artists, the grand finale of last year's tour featuring McLachlan, Jewel, Indigo Girls, and Meredith Brooks all onstage performing Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi" was a priceless musical moment.
Call Lilith Fair whatever you want. Most of all, you can call it a great show.
Lilith Fair is scheduled for Sunday, June 28, at Desert Sky Pavilion, with Sarah McLachlan, Natalie Merchant, Indigo Girls, Erykah Badu, Liz Phair and others. Showtime is 4:30 p.m.