During the 1990s and early ’00s, Lilith Fair founder Sarah McLachlan was a staple on the U.S. alternative and pop charts, thanks to the evocative piano-rock of 1993’s Fumbling Towards Ecstasy and the melancholy, misty songs found on 1997’s Surfacing. In the decades since, McLachlan has continued to record, tour and dedicate herself to philanthropic work—notably with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), which airs her mournful tune “Angel” in heartstring-tugging TV ads. Next week the Canadian Music Hall of Famer will bring a rare, three-night engagement to Encore Theater at the Wynn. Here are five reasons to consider attending.
1. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. It’s been nearly nine years since McLachlan performed in Las Vegas; her last appearance came at Mandalay Bay Beach in July 2010, part of a Lilith Fair tour stop that also included Miranda Lambert and The Bangles (one day earlier, she played a brief, four-song set at a campaign rally for then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid). Incredibly enough, McLachlan hasn’t played a full-length concert of her own here since a July 2004 gig at Mandalay Bay Events Center.
2. It’s a stripped-down, throwback show. In 2019, McLachlan has scheduled a series of U.S. concerts with symphonies and pops orchestras, but her Vegas gigs will be scaled-back nods to her early days. These are solo shows featuring just her and a piano and guitar, accompanied by cellist Vanessa Freebairn-Smith. “It’s great for me to be able to strip back all the production and just bring the songs back to their original form, how I wrote them in my living room,” she told Forbes. “It’s simple and just bringing it back to the moments of conception, talking about the songs, telling stories.”
3. She’s an entertaining storyteller. Of course, a storytelling format only works when the performer is engaging—and, as proven by McLachlan’s recent turn hosting the Juno Awards (aka the Canadian Grammys), she has charisma in spades. Not only did McLachlan joke she needed to keep her “potty mouth in check” on the live broadcast, she also gently poked fun at people’s perceptions of her: “I think maybe people have the impression I spend all my time sitting in the dark, watching Handmaid’s Tale, reading Sylvia Plath, thinking up new ways to make people cry.”
4. She’ll play plenty of familiar hits. Although McLachlan is performing a new song, “Wilderness,” at these dates, she’s making up for lost time by crafting a fan-friendly, career-spanning set list that not only focuses on her best-known work—“Adia,” “Possession,” “Building a Mystery”—but also digs into her extensive catalog of lesser-aired tunes.
5. McLachlan’s music and politics continue to resonate. Back in the ’90s, McLachlan’s piercing voice, emotional vulnerability and staunchly feminist worldview—and actions—made her wholly unique. Over the years, it’s become clear that her music has been enormously influential on a crop of iconoclastic singer-songwriters (including Sara Bareilles, Ingrid Michaelson and Florence Welch), and her consistent outspokenness remains a beacon of inspiration for anyone disillusioned by the current political climate.
SARAH MCLACHLAN April 24, 26-27, 8 p.m., $90-$164. Encore Theater, 702-770-9966.