Speculation to the contrary aside, thousands of fans were clearly happy to see Lilith Fair return to Blossom Music Center yesterday.
Headliner and organizer Sarah McLachlan deserves a lot of credit for being brave enough to bring back the all-female music festival after a ten year absence, particularly in this rough touring economy.
Also brave, perhaps questionable, was McLachlan's decision to let modern R&B powerhouse Mary J. Blige perform just before her own closing set. Blige and her amazing voice promptly burned up nearly all the energy in the building with a nonstop set that mixed her biggest hits with a set of classic-rock covers.
Her take on U2's "One" was terrific, and she breathed new life into Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven," approaching it with a perfect mix of reverence and re-invention, even if included a generic guitar solo.
Blige's performance effectively turned McLachlan into the walk-out attraction at her own party. Of course, the majority of the audience stayed put for her impeccably played adult-contemporary music, and it was clear they enjoyed themselves.
But creatively, the evening had clearly peaked, and McLachlan seemed content to let the night fade out rather blandly.
The earlier part of the day featured impressive sets by Butterfly Boucher and the Court Yard Hounds, two-thirds of the Dixie Chicks, who soared highest when abandoning their more radio-friendly material in favor of a barnstorming instrumental bluegrass duel or an inspired cover of Joni Mitchell's "This Flight Tonight." —Matthew Wilkening