Wet fans huddled happily on blankets and plastic sheets, under umbrellas, and wailed in protest when the opening band, October Project, announced the last number.
October Project opened the concert in pouring rain, led by a passionate Mary Fahl, who danced in an ankle-length black skirt and long sleeves, a bare belly and long dark hair. Fahl's voice, enhanced by three additional vocalists, projected haunting, Celtic-sounding songs about, among other things, dancing in the rain, which in the drenched mountain setting of Deer Valley was perfect.October Project once toured as an opening group for the Crash Test Dummies, "but their music is different from ours," said guitarist David Sabatino while signing autographs for born-tonight fans. "People who come to hear Sarah's music, though, like ours, too."
Indeed they do.
A New York City band, comprised of a rock musician, several classically trained musicians, and a folk musician, October Project has no idea why they sound Celtic.
But Sarah McLachlan sounds Celtic, too. She came onstage, the magical McLachlan, blending the boundaries that usually stand between singing, sighing, wailing, and jubilant crying.
Her woeful but inspiring melodies enchanted the audience. Songs like "Drawn to the Rhythm of the Sea" carried McLachlan's powerful voice to the extremes of expression. Her voice was sharp and clear one moment, then bubbling, tossing vowels like a yodeler, then suddenly gentle and close. Sarah McLachlan hadn't been playing long when someone in the audience shouted, "We're not worthy!"
"I feel so blessed," she said, speaking of a documentary film she made in Thailand, a focus on AIDS, prostitution, and poverty. "It took me a long time after that for me to be able to justify complaining again." The sad lullabye that came out of that experience, "Ice", fuzzed the line between song and cry.
A vocal tug-of-war ensued in a powerful number between the vocalists, who passed a chant back and forth, higher and higher. After the song, McLachlan panted. "We're pretty high up. Took me a while to figure out why I feel like I'm stoned," she said. " Rocky Mountain High, yeah, I understand. Now I can't remember the words to the next song."
Though her voice is her main instrument, McLachlan also played guitar and keyboard. Her guitar's electrical cords disconnected during a song, and a technician scampered up on stage to plug plugs into her guitar while she played. She finally just put the guitar aside and held up an imaginary guitar, which she continued to strum joyfully for the rest of the number.
The next tune featured pipes and flutes like an old-time carousel, and the chirp of frogs and river creatures in a sad lullabye about "the child with the dream in her eyes."
She said, "Let's have some more sad and depressing songs. I don't know why I get so much enjoyment out of singing sad and depressing songs but I do."
McLachlan's friendly laughter bound the melancholic songs together like bits of gold string. Over and over she said, "Thank you, thank you so much."