CD Review of Mirrorball: The Complete Concert by Sarah McLachlan

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Mirrorball: The Complete Concert
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At first glance, a double-disc expanded edition of Sarah McLachlan’s first live album looks like a senseless byproduct of the merger and reissue manias that have gripped the record industry for the last ten years. This isn’t a dig at McLachlan – who is very good at what she does – nor at the original Mirrorball, which is the perfect album to listen to if you want some crowd noise to go with your bubble bath.

The thing is, there really aren’t very many live albums that can be considered essential; in fact, most of them are close to worthless. Apart from Cheap Trick’s Budokan and Frampton Comes Alive (both of which have already been given the remastered ‘n’ expanded treatment), the pickings are slim, and Mirrorball – which was always less an artistic statement than a stopgap piece of product – isn’t in that class.

Then again, the original Mirrorball (along with its successor, Afterglow Live) leaned heavily on more recent material, and wasn’t a truly comprehensive overview. Whether the world needs a comprehensive live album from Sarah McLachlan is up for debate, but at least in this respect, The Complete Concert fills a gap that may have been felt by those other than rabid completists.

What might be the most interesting thing about Mirrorball 2.0 is how, in listening to a wide cross-section of her oeuvre back-to-back, with between-song patter interspersed, you realize how much of a love-‘em-and-leave-‘em vibe her songs tend to carry. They’re so lullaby-pretty that it’s easy to miss, but lines like “If I leave you now, it doesn’t mean I love you any less” – to say nothing of the velvety kiss-off that is “I Will Remember You” – show that, at least before her near-total descent into enervating AC territory, McLachlan’s heart-shaped face hid a serial monogamist’s craven heart.

There aren’t many surprises here, just as there weren’t on the original release; artists like McLachlan don’t reinvent themselves in concert, and subsequently, this type of live recording often functions better as a de facto best-of than a worthwhile album in its own right. McLachlan is in fine voice, and the band is great, but if you’ve got the studio recordings already, there’s no real reason to pay for these songs twice.

~Jeff Giles