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Timothy Finn blogs about the Kansas City music scene

Singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan builds a mystery in Starlight Theatre performance

07/04/2014 7:00 AM

07/05/2014 8:10 PM

Sarah McLachlan bungled the opening chords of her signature song at Starlight Theatre on Thursday. She gracefully laughed off the mistake and began a rendition of her 1997 hit “Building a Mystery” anew.

The miscue was one of the only moments of the concert that was less than pristine.

For more than two hours (not including a 20-minute intermission), McLachlan provided a gleaming survey of her career for an audience of more than 2,500.

“Fumbling Towards Ecstasy,” the Canadian singer-songwriter’s third album, made her a star in the United States in 1994. After organizing the Lilith Fair tours to showcase the work of underappreciated female musicians, McLachlan became a paragon of the international folk-rock community.

McLachlan blends new age sensitivity with sultry love songs, a unique sensibility she corroborated by revealing that a candle and bras were among her purchases during a shopping trip to the Country Club Plaza.

Whether she was sharing adages such as “every single one of us has a light within us” or making self-deprecating jokes about her tendency to write “broken-hearted love songs,” McLachlan’s engaging commentary provided insights into her creative process. She dedicated a song to her late father and another to her two daughters.

The motivational “In Your Shoes” and the elegantly Beatles-esque “Adia” were the most compelling selections in the pleasant opening set. The onset of darkness and a seeming boost in volume allowed McLachlan and her four-piece band to gain traction during the second set.

A tasteful arrangement of “Fumbling Towards Ecstasy”’s “Hold On” was superior to the original recording. A solo reading of “Angel” featuring McLachlan’s piano work was lovely while the audience sing-along on “Ice Cream” resembled a massive choir of altos and sopranos.

McLachlan suggested that her voice was ragged, but her powerful singing indicated otherwise. Her tricky yodel-like vocal maneuvers during an emotive version of “Sweet Surrender” were particularly impressive.

McLachlan fielded written questions from the audience and invited two sets of contest winners to sit on the stage. In addition to sharing her affection for the Plaza, these interactions caused McLachlan to address topics ranging from her weakness for Starburst candy to her admiration of the young Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai.

She also recalled consoling herself by listening to Genesis’ “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway” album after being bullied as a teenager.

No one bullied McLachlan at Starlight Theatre. Instead, many members of the audience reacted to her presence with the ardor of zealots. Their shouts of devotion were entirely merited.

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