Sarah McLachlan with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra: review

Sarah McLachlan

Nick Krewen reviews the show as Sarah McLachlan kicks off her 13-date Symphony Tour Friday night at the Molson Amphitheatre in Toronto.

Nick Krewen

Special to the Star

Published on Sat Jun 23 2012

Whenever you play with an orchestra, it’s good to remember that there are strings attached.

It was a notion that seemed lost for the first half of Sarah McLachlan’s hit-and-miss two-hour concert with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra at the Molson Amphitheatre on Friday night, the kick-off of her 13-date summer Symphony Tour.

Except for a few inspired bursts here and there, due perhaps to an underwhelming sound mix, the 90-piece TSO’s role was initially relegated to afterthought, dwarfed by the universally beloved Vancouver-based singer and songwriter and her four-piece backing band.

The concert opener, “Building A Mystery,” was a wash, with the orchestra, conducted by Sean O’Loughlin, who also handled arrangements, barely registering on audio, a missed opportunity to enhance the grandiose flow of an already majestic song.

Redemption came with the second number, “U Want Me 2,” with orchestra strings and reeds punctuating the Laws Of Illusion tune’s percussive melody, adding a tinge of drama to the proceedings.

But “Answer” was a reversion back to the rote, and for the next few confessionals, “Fallen” and “Hold On” among them, McLachlan could have just employed the services of her sublime guitarist, Luke Doucet, multi-instrumentalist and harmony singer Melissa McClelland, keyboardist Vince Jones and drummer Curt Bisquera, and her audience of approximately 8,500 would have been none the wiser.

By the time “Rivers of Love” came around, orchestral involvement was a little more evident, but the first set closed and was flat overall, the ballad-heavy lineup not helping McLachlan’s case for presenting something extraordinarily different that her fans would never forget.

However, Act Two was a different animal altogether.

Following a self-contained set of “Good Enough” and a pair of tunes from the married tandem of McClelland and Doucet, the TSO was brought back into the mix and finally allowed to shine, erupting in a splendid kaleidoscope of aural colours that truly showcased the magnificence and power of a symphony in full flight.

The tempo of “Sweet Surrender” was slowed to a trickle to bring up the dramatic flair and beauty of the orchestral accompaniment, while “Fear” made the most of McLachlan’s stratospheric vocal range, the strings, reeds and horns raising the animated stakes and tension of the song into a powerful tour de force that had the crowd leaping to their feet in applause at its exciting conclusion.

McLachlan, who sounded golden, confident and was beaming all night, had finally delivered on the promise of a magical evening.

It’s just a shame it took awhile to get there.

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