My Seven Hours With Lilith

A chromosome-challenged critic gets in touch with his feminine side.

HOUR SEVEN:
Camaraderie only gets you so far, though. When reviewers criticized last year's Lilith Fair as too bland, too white and too heavily weighted toward singer-songwritery artists, McLachlan reacted by adding edgier performers to many of this year's concerts--but not to Denver's, which is arguably the least varied, most homogenous on the tour. All of the women in the Fiddler's spotlight seem like charming human beings; if you accidentally burnt a meal intended for any one of them, I'll bet she'd eat it without a single complaint and thank you for it afterward. But with only a couple of exceptions, listening to their music is like being slowly buried in self-help books. The issue isn't gender: There are oodles of female performers on the scene--from PJ Harvey and Sleater-Kinney to Lisa Germano and Cheri Knight--who are making vital music. But not enough of them have turned up on a Lilith Fair stage.

Instead, we get McLachlan, who's as kind a hostess as any I've encountered. She compliments Merchant ("We really hate to see her go, because she's such a sweetheart"), she praises Colorado ("It's so beautiful here; you're so lucky"), and she frames her songs as lessons from which we can all learn. One is "about faith and hope and questioning," another concerns "change and growth," and so on. But the music is mainly generic soft rock with a folk edge that's hardly different from the navel-gazing tracks that dominated the airwaves during the early Seventies. I have seen the anti-Christ, and he is James Taylor.

McLachlan loves this stuff, you can tell, and her enthusiasm is infectious; most of the crowd treats her like a queen. As for me, I start nodding off by McLachlan's sixth song--and since I know that the remainder of the set will consist of more of the same, capped by a number where the day's performers will gather together in the musical equivalent of a group hug (a prediction that turns out to be 100 percent correct), I ask Deb if it would be okay to split. I realize that by doing this, I could be unmasking myself as a traitor to the cause. But she readily agrees--because she's about to fall asleep, too. That's feminism, Nineties style.

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