Excellent concert docu will prove welcome consolation to many music fans who both did and didn't catch Lilith Fair -- one of the most successful and least-troubled artist-run tours ever -- in its lifetime, which lasted three years and some change. The pic's future looks bright as an event in itself.

Excellent concert docu will prove welcome consolation to many music fans who both did and didn’t catch Lilith Fair — one of the most successful and least-troubled artist-run tours ever — in its lifetime, which lasted three years and some change. Momentarily putting aside her fascination with the dark side, “Kissed” helmer Lynn Stopkewich followed Vancouver’s Sarah McLachlan — who started the whole thing — and other Lillith performers for their last year on the road, paring 400 hours of DV footage into a just-right sampler of tunes, talk and ‘tude. The pic’s future looks bright as an event in itself, rich with possibility of ancillary merchandizing, down to the flogging of the DVD version with more musical segs. Abbreviated tube action will follow.

Fans hoping to find McLachlan’s Achilles’ heel will be disappointed, as up close she proves to be just as generous and even-tempered as everyone expected — although she does show some steely mettle when confronted by anti-abortion zealots who demand to take advantage of her “inclusive” shows. “It’s my tour,” she says, finally, at a press conference.

Non-confrontational trouper Sheryl Crowe comes across as a stalwart lieutenant in marshaling forces when spirits flag, and there’s an interesting ongoing tension with perennial bad girl Chrissie Hynde, who always seems to be noodging the tour boss to be a little less nice.

Much great music unfolds, often with real spontaneity, and issue of racial diversity (which improved slightly as the tours progressed) is addressed, if only half-heartedly. Fest auds are heard from, sometimes charmingly, in an ongoing “speaker’s corner” area at shows, and one offbeat moment finds one of McLachlan’s guitarists entering the vid booth to play a bluesy acoustic number, which helmer blends with a montage of fans moving and techies at work.

Most sensational, and amusing, development happens on the last night of last show, when Hynde keeps goading McLachlan to get raunchier while dancing to her tough hit “Middle of the Road”; the angelic artist eventually responds by flashing her boobs at stunned drummer Martin Chambers — with the head Pretender too broken up to keep singing.

Elsewhere, pic makes poignant points about fleeting connections on the road and is honest about the rigors of the festival life, but it never loses essentially celebratory quality. In all areas, “Lilith” is tops.

Lilith On Top

Canada

Production

A Global presentation of a Lilith Fair Films production, in association with Boneyard Films, with assistance from Telefilm Canada, Astral Media, Harold Greenberg Fund. (International sales: Boneyard Film Co., Vancouver.) Produced by Jessica Fraser, Dean English. Co-producer, Cathy Barrett. Executive producers, Dean Fraser, Terry McBride, Sarah McLachlan. Co-executive producer, Barbara Peterson. Directed by Lynne Stopkewich.

Crew

Camera (color, DigiBeta/35mm), Bob Aschmann; editors, Graeme Ball, Peter Roeck; music, Sarah McLachlan, various artists; sound (Dolby Digital), James Genn. Reviewed at Vancouver Film Festival, Oct. 8, 2001. (Also in Toronto Film Festival -- Perspective Canada.) Running time: 100 MIN.

With

Sarah McLachlan, Sheryl Crow, the Pretenders, Dixie Chicks, Indigo Girls, Bif Naked.

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