When a concert begins with "Ecstasy" and ends with "Ice Cream," what's not to like?
Sarah McLachlan, to toy with her own lyrics, was better than ice cream. Better than chocolate. If anyone doubted her voice would be able to make the jump from the intimate venue she played last year (North Tonawanda's Riviera Theatre) to Shea's this year, the proof was on stage.
Many fans were out of luck: While three-time Grammy winner Sheryl Crow failed to fill the house Sunday night, Grammy nominee McLachlan enjoyed a capacity crowd Monday. (That says something about Buffalo's musical palate. And the Grammys.)
Tapping songs primarily from "Fumbling Towards Ecstasy" -- the 1994 release that put McLachlan on the Shea's stage as well as many critics' "best of" lists -- the singer-songwriter alternated between a keyboard and three different guitars, her voice remaining in dynamic, sultry form throughout the ballad-soaked show.
The Halifax native opened with "Fumbling's" title track and ended by inviting the audience to join her in singing the fourth and final encore, "Ice Cream." Many audience members cheerfully accepted.
Supported by a five-man band and a female backup singer, McLachlan performed for almost two hours, receiving four standing ovations. Perhaps the only lamentable omission from the 18-song concert was the funky "Circle."
Though her voice remained predictably transcendent, McLachlan revealed a few surprises about her muse: A confessed rambler, she introduced many songs with lengthy explanations.
Launching into what she called the "lost innocence" portion of the set, McLachlan described "Lost" as a song about growing up. "Elsewhere," she said, is a reminder that everyone needs time to themselves -- "even if it's just taking a nice bath," she said.
All the while promising she was no man basher, McLachlan mused that many of the "flower-holding, baby-loving" men use the sensitive guy facade as an excuse to get . . . dates. (She completed the sentence with a stronger word.)
The discourse on men was prelude to her tale of a soured relationship, which was prelude to "Plenty," a tune tinged with regret.
Singer Paula Cole started the show with a vivacious 45-minute set that ended with a standing ovation from about a fifth of the house -- not a small feat for an opening act.
After thanking McLachlan for inviting her on the tour, Cole best described the 20-something Canadian singer as "an exception."
Those other singer-songwriters?
Most of them can eat crow.
Ice cream's better.
Monday night at Shea's Performing Arts Center.