Smaller Lilith, same size fun

  • Article by: JON BREAM , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 18, 2010 - 11:21 PM

The scaled-down event attracted about 5,000 to Target Center, many thanks to ticket giveaways.

Neva Fuller kept rushing to the front of the stage Sunday at Target Center to take a photo of every act in Lilith Fair.

One after another: Vita Chambers, Kate Nash, Metric (her favorite band), Court Yard Hounds, and on and on.

Was this the best birthday present Neva, now 15, ever received?

"It's pretty high," she said between bands.

"It's pretty high?" retorted her startled dad, Rick Fuller, who bought the tickets.

It was Neva's first concert as an adult, as Dad put it. A music-video director, he'd taken her backstage to shows before, but this one was special: They were together to see a nearly nine-hour marathon featuring 10 female-fronted acts, including Heart and Mary J. Blige.

After a landmark three-year run in the late 1990s, Lilith Fair came back this year after an 11-year absence to face grim reality. Thirteen of the announced 36 shows have been canceled because of soft ticket sales. The Twin Cities show was downsized from Canterbury Park, where crowds of about 27,000 showed up in '98 and '99, to Target Center, a rare indoor stop for the traveling festival.

"It's cooler inside," founder, headliner and guiding light Sarah McLachlan said at a news conference Sunday afternoon. "We prefer to play outdoors. But Canterbury is a little big for the amount of people coming tonight."

Official paid attendance was 3,650 -- at least judging by the $1-per-ticket charity donation given Sunday to the Women's Foundation of Minnesota.

Thanks to ticket giveaways, nearly 5,000 showed up at Target Center. By not having to set up stages, concession stands and portable toilets at Canterbury, expenses fell by one-third, said Minneapolis promoter Randy Levy, who also presented the earlier Lilith shows. But McLachlan and crew still took a six-figure bath at the box office.

"They're losing a lot of money, but they believe in their brand and they believe in their show," Levy said, "and they want to bring Lilith back next year to bring light on women's issues, certain charities and women's bands. Plus, those who are here are really having a good time."

Free upgrade

Shanon Whiteside of Maple Grove decided to spend her 41st birthday with her best girlfriend at Lilith instead of with her two teenage daughters and husband. (She received a nice birthday bonus for arriving early -- a free upgrade from her $41 upper-deck seat to a $135 eighth-row seat.)

Although she preferred the softer Americana sound of the Court Yard Hounds to the loud indie rock of Metric, the middle-school science teacher and first-time Lilith concertgoer said: "When my students ask me how I spent my summer, some will be impressed that I saw Metric, some that I saw Mary J. Blige and some that I saw Sarah McLachlan."

Those performances were among Sunday's musical highlights: Metric's fierce indie-rock; Blige's soaringly soulful renditions of U2, Led Zeppelin and her own songs; McLachlan's soothingly introspective piano pop; and Heart's explosive classic rock.

Proudly sporting her 1999 Lilith Fair T-shirt, Therese Sonnek, 46, a Maplewood librarian, didn't mind shelling out $135 for a reserved seat this time, although she said she had to choose attending Lilith over Melissa Etheridge. "I couldn't not come back," said Sonnek, who purchased her tickets the first day they went on sale. "I feel a little sad it's not as popular as it was."

Lilith rookie Jackie Hawkinson, 27, a New Hope bus driver, wandered the concourses of Target Center Sunday collecting freebies from Lilith sponsors: deodorant, tampons, nutrition bars, Crystal Light. "We didn't bring a big enough purse so it's a good thing they gave out these big [Chevy] bags," she said.

Although her last concert was the un-Lilith-like metal band Tool and she won free Lilith tickets from KDWB, Hawkinson pledged, "I'll come to Lilith next year. I like the vibe."

But no one was digging the vibe more than Neva Fuller -- and her dad. Because after Metric roared through a galvanizing electro-rock set on the main stage, seven minutes later, lead singer Emily Haines and guitarist James Shaw offered a two-song acoustic set on a small stage at the back of Target Center.

"This is unexpected," Rick Fuller said.

"This is awesome," said Neva. "Awesome."

For a review of Lilith, go to www.startribune.com/artcetera. Jon Bream • 612-673-1719

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