Good ReadsSarah McLachlan a Sweet Surrender For Jazzfest Crowd

Sarah McLachlan a Sweet Surrender For Jazzfest Crowd

Sarah McLachlan a Sweet Surrender For Jazzfest Crowd

All photos by Andre Gagne.

Sarah McLachlan, who has just assured the crowd that she is not a jazz musician, sits alone on TD Ottawa Jazz Festival stage with her piano. Her fingers gracefully dance over a few keys before she realizes something is wrong. Perhaps it’s the sound. She smiles and tries to continue only to stop again.

“Just play guitar!” shouts an enthusiastic fan.

McLachlan laughs, steps away from the piano, and does just that, strapping on her black acoustic and inviting the band on stage for what the singer admitted was a work in progress tour.

“We’re a little rusty. I’m going to blame that on me. This is only our second show and we haven’t played in a long, long time. It kind of freaks you out when you come out on stage and nothing works.”

“Your voice works fine!” came another call from the crowd.

McLachlan, with her mezzo-soprano vocal range, recently got over a two month stint of laryngitis so she tells the audience she’s happy she still has that going for her before launching into a 90-minute set that took the audience on a journey of happy highs and soul aching lows. It’s the kind of mix that has flowed through her music since her first release, Touch, in 1988. She acknowledges that depressing lyrics still permeate her albums but insists she’s an exceptionally positive person.

“I write all these songs and they’re sort of dark and depressing. I am in those moods sometimes but I’m generally pretty light-hearted and happy,” she told a captivated crowd in Confederation Park. “It’s why I get such joy when I’m up here singing them, that I’m not actually in those dark places.”


Swinging out of the sadder tracks in the first part of the set (“We’re not quite done with the depressing stuff,” she informed) with songs like “Broken Heart” and a haunting solo version of “Possession” on a now working piano, she moved into two touching tributes. “Beautiful Girl” was dedicated to her two daughters with the musician calling them her greatest gifts but also her biggest challenge in life. Afterwards, McLachlan took a moment to reflect on the many musicians who have passed away in recent months before playing a beautiful cover of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U”.

“This next song is about gratitude,” she said strumming the first few chords of “World on Fire”. In an impassioned soliloquy, McLachlan, an Order of Canada appointee, reflected on the current state of the world and her gratefulness for where she calls home.

SARAH MCLACHLAN (10)“We all need to be thankful for the amazing gifts that we have: the luck of geography, the roof over our heads, the food on our table, for our public health care. When you look around and watch the news these days there’s just so many awful things happening out in the world. Even myself sometimes I feel overwhelmed by it. God, what can any of us do? But it’s such an important thing for me to hold on to that we, as individuals, can do something, whether it’s little tiny gestures like smiling at somebody who is having a bad day or volunteering or donating money to charity.

“Whatever those things are I think they have a positive ripple effect and they go out into the world and continue to allow us to walk on this thin tightrope of civilization that we are so perilously on. Some days it feels like a really thin thread and we’re just almost ready to slip into chaos. But I have to hold onto those positive thoughts, the light that we all have, that we continue have to try and shine as bright as we can in these dark times.”

The multiple Grammy and Juno Award winner’s set consisted of old favourites like “Building A Mystery”, “Adia” and “Hold On” with some newer songs (“Monsters”, “In Your Shoes”) from her last release, 2014’s Shine On. To the delight of those gathered in the park, McLachlan said she was working on some new material, a Christmas album and another unnamed project, before giving the audience a taste of the new material with “The Long Goodbye”.

With some dabbing away a few tears after the final notes of “Angel” were played, McLachlan ended the night on some happier tunes: “Ice Cream”, which always has people out of their seats and singing, and the whimsical ukulele groove “The Sound That Love Makes”.

“We love what we do and we’re so grateful that there’s still such an audience,” the singer said before one last wave to the appreciative crowd.

If that was rusty, some had to think, whatever does McLachlan think is top form? Let’s hope it isn’t very long before we get to find out.



  1. Building a Mystery
  2. In Your Shoes
  3. Possession
  4. Broken Heart
  5. Elsewhere
  6. Adia
  7. I Will Remember You
  8. Beautiful Girl
  9. Nothing Compares 2 U (Prince cover)
  10. Hold On
  11. World On Fire
  12. Fallen
  13. Sweet Surrender
  14. The Long Goodbye
  15. Loving You Is Easy
  16. Monsters
  17. Fumbling Towards Ecstasy
  18. Fear
  19. Angel
  20. Song For My Father


  1. Ice Cream
  2. The Sound That Love Makes


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