Jun 27, 2024

Listen As The Wind Blows From Across The Great Divide

Sarah McLachlan / Feist
Fumbling Towards Ecstasy: 30th Anniversary Tour
Mann Center For The Performing Arts - Philadelphia, PA
A lot of the music I listen to is forever linked in my mind to the person who introduced me to it for the first time, or who inspired me to take a deeper dive into the work of the artist.  For example, when I hear the Grateful Dead, Frank Zappa, Warren Zevon, and Renaissance, I think of my dad.  When I listen to Simon & Garfunkel, Jim Croce, or The Beatles, I think of my mother.  Aerosmith, Skid Row, and Queen will always remind me of Stephanie and the mixtapes she would make for me when we lived in Florida.  It is impossible for me to hear Cat Stevens and not think of Megan, and although the individual song list is much larger, I cannot listen to Stevie Nicks or Ozzy without thinking of Bree.

There are also songs that I've come to associate with different times in my life.  Roll To Me is a pop rock song by a band called Del Amitri who I know almost nothing about, but I can almost smell hamburgers when I hear it because it was huge on the radio when I was working at Burger King when I was in Junior High.  There's a few songs that will always remind me of when I worked at Carmen's Restaurant, but the one that has the strongest connection for me is Satellite by Dave Matthews Band because it was on one of the tapes of house music that played softly in the dining room every night that I was there.

Lots of songs and artists have become indivisible from people, places, and times in my life.  When it comes to Sarah McLachlan, and specifically the album Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, my mind immediately goes back to a girl who I never even met, but who helped me get through a rough patch in my life.  Her name was Keri and she lived in New Hampshire.  We started talking in an IRC chatroom (remember those!) during the dial-up internet days of the late 90's, and a lot of our conversations were about music.  She was a singer, and I had dreams of growing up and being a rock star someday, which I am embarrassed to admit, but what the hell... I was a dumb kid.  This was years before it was even possible to share music online, so she mailed me a cassette tape with a hand-drawn cover that was filled with a mix of her signing and playing guitar, along with copies of some songs that she liked.  I have no idea what ever happened to that tape.  For all I know, it's in a box in the garage somewhere with all of the things I cleaned out of my grandparents house after they passed away.  Keri and I lost touch after a few months of ridiculously higher-than-normal phone bills, but her love of Sarah McLachlan and her third studio album was passed onto me.  I bought it on her recommendation, and it spent the next several years in heavy rotation on the boombox in my bedroom.  At the time, it probably looked slightly out of place among all of the grunge rock, but I knew every word of every song on that record before my teens were over.

It's been 30 years since Fumbling Towards Ecstasy was released, and about 27 years since I listened to it for the first time.  I can't claim to know every last lyric from the album these days, but I still remembered enough to sing Ice Cream to my wife, along with several thousand others in the City of Brotherly Love at the concert we attended last night.  Well... they weren't all singing to my wife, but damn it, they should have been.

The opening act for Sunday night's show was Feist, who I'm sorry to say that I am not extremely familiar with.  I enjoy the songs of hers that I've heard though.  She kind of reminds me of Bjork if she was far more mellow and Canadian.  I'm not sure if that qualifies as a Canadian stereotype in this case.  There are drill sergeants with a cocaine habit who would probably be considered more toned down than Bjork.  Bjork, if you ever happen to find my humble little blog, please don't fly over here from Iceland and kill me.  I love your music too!

Feist has one song that I know especially well, and it's probably the song that everybody knows: 1234.  It was a massive hit back in 2007, and I was disappointed that she didn't play it at this show, but the reason became clear during the night.  The Mann Center is an outdoor venue, and there was a severe thunderstorm warning for eastern Pennsylvania throughout most of the day on Wednesday.  My dad called when we were in line to get in and told us that the storms had already hit the Northeast.  Feist only performed about five songs, which is half of what she's done on shows from earlier in the tour.  Sarah McLachlan took the stage at about twenty after 8, which is a full 40 minutes earlier than her 9:00 pm start time for the previous shows on the tour, so it was pretty obvious; they wanted to get moving so that they could get as much of the show in as possible before the storm hit.

I looked up the setlist for the previous stops on the tour, and while they weren't identical, they followed a similar structure.  The first half of the show was a compilation of Sarah's greatest hits, followed by a brief intermission, and then a performance of the Fumbling Towards Ecstasy album in its entirety to celebrate its 30th anniversary.  Quick side note: thank god for spellcheck, because I have misspelled the word "ecstasy" every single time I've written it so far.  I keep wanting it to end in "cy" instead of "sy" for some reason.  You'd think I'd get it right by now, but I'm sure that I'll do it again.

The show began with Sweet Surrender, Building A Mystery, and I Will Remember You... all massive hits that I still know every word to... so the set was going the way that I expected based on my 20 seconds of pre-show research.  The next song was Possession, which is a song that I absolutely love and that I instantly recognized as the first track off of Fumbling Towards Ecstasy.  Damn it, I did it again!  E-c-s-t-a-S-y!  I thought for a second that maybe I had misread the prior show's setlists.  Possession was the first single off of the album, so I thought maybe it was included in the "greatest hits" half of the show, but the next song put that idea to rest.  She was performing the full album starting now.

Before I go any further, please know that I am not at all complaining.  They weren't calling for a little bit of rain here.  This ended up being 60 mph winds with rain, hail, and downed trees and power lines.  The poor Japanese Maple in my backyard has shed enough sticks to keep Harvey busy until the 40th anniversary tour.  They did what they had to do.  The show was advertised to be a complete performance of Fumbling Towards Ecstasy (yay, I got it right that time!) from front to back, and she delivered.  In addition to the three hits that started off the night, she came out to do an encore which included an absolutely beautiful new song called Gravity that she wrote for her oldest daughter about the challenges they've overcome in their relationship, as well as Adia, and Answer (off of her 2003 album Afterglow), before closing out the night with Angel.  It ended up being about five or six songs shorter than the rest of the shows on the tour, but the songs that were performed were absolutely incredible.  Nothing felt rushed in the slightest.  Sarah talked to the crowd between each song, including a story about the inspiration of Adia that I hadn't known before last night, and every song sounded absolutely perfect.

Whoever mapped out the start time and progression of this show is an absolute genius because it could not possibly have been timed any better.  Our seats were in the Terrace which is uncovered, and there wasn't a drop of rain that fell on us during the entire show... not one.  It didn't rain at all as we walked out of the venue and to the parking lot.  We got in the car and buckled up, and before I could even start the engine, the first drops of rain fell on the windshield.  It started off kind of slow, but it was a torrential downpour by the time we got to the turnpike.  Driving through Jim Thorpe and over the Broad Mountain was an adventure through all of the rain and lightning, but we made it home with no trouble, and as I laid in bed last night, I wondered how the hell they managed to play this concert and completely avoid the storm.  Everybody who worked at The Mann last night, from the artists to their crew to the crew who works for the venue deserves a lot of credit.  That could not have been easy to pull off, but they did it, and it ended up being one of the best shows I've ever seen.

Unfortunately, no one has uploaded Feist's setlist from this show, and I don't know her music well enough to remember what songs she played.  However, here is Sarah McLachlan's setlist.