Despite lackluster ticket sales, 11 date cancellations and co-headliner Kelly Clarkson dropping out, Lilith Fair 2010 proved that after a 10-year absence, it's still a viable tour.
Brandi Carlile kicked off the main-stage entertainment at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in Irvine with an energetic cadre of songs that perfectly set the tone for what was to come after the sun set.
"Looking Out," from her recent album "Give Up the Ghost," began with the folky singer on acoustic guitar and transitioned into a hard-rocking performance. With "The Story" coming midway through her 30-minute set, Carlile shined as her driving vocals filled the massive venue. A pair of tunes from the Johnny Cash playbook ("Jackson" and "Folsom Prison Blues") wowed as concertgoers quickly filed in to take their seats.
Emmylou Harris, a staple on Lilith circa 1997-98, followed with a 40-minute set that may have been low on energy but was high on sweet melodies. "Orphan Girl" and "Love and Happiness" (which she dedicated to her granddaughter in attendance) were the perfect soundtrack to accompany the sunset, but Harris did little to engage an impatient crowd that remained buzzing over a beautiful rendition of "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues."
Calling herself the "first Mexican regional artist to be part of Lilith Fair," Jenni Rivera seemed the most out of place of the day's 11 performers. Taking the stage in a flowing purple dress and accompanied by a 10-piece mariachi band, the Los Angeles native performed mostly covers in both English and Spanish, including ranchera staple "Cielito Lindo."
She took numerous shots of tequila from an onstage minibar, and the crowd enthusiastically responded as her voice strengthened with each shot. But Rivera's big voice and powerful stage presence gradually fizzled as the novelty wore off.
Miranda Lambert got things back on track, bringing out the most elements of what made Lilith Fair work in the first place. While many attendees didn't seem to know the self-described "crazy country redneck," they certainly did by the end of a 50-minute set reminiscent of Dixie Chicks' dates at Lilith more than 10 years ago.
The highlight of her set was a duet with new friend Carlile of Willie Nelson's "Crazy." Separately, Lambert and Carlile's voices are stellar, but together they're an earful of female empowerment. Collaborations like these were and will remain what makes Lilith a tour not to be missed.
Lilith Fair founder Sarah McLachlan closed the July 10 show with a set that included "Loving You is Easy," "Forgiveness" and "Out of Tune," all from the new album "Laws of Illusion," as well as hits "Angel," "Building a Mystery," "Sweet Surrender," a sped-up version of "Possession" and "I Will Remember You," which perfectly exemplified a more confident and less dainty and delicate McLachlan.
While she hasn't toured since "Afterglow" in 2005, McLachlan definitely has grown as a performer, as her stage presence has developed to include a stronger voice and spirit. An encore of Patti Smith's "Because the Night," in place of "Big Yellow Taxi" from Lilith 1.0, brought out all of the day's performers, which also included Jes Hudak, Molly Jenson, Elizaveta, Susan Justice, the Weepies and Marina and the Diamonds.