Coming seven years after the single disc CD was released, Sarah fans get a Christmas treat with the complete live show on a two-CD set. This is the audio version of the DVD which was released a few years back. More satisfying than the original, this gives the set a much better pacing than the kind of choked out feeling I got from the single disc when I first heard it.
This is an excellent set that closed out the massive tour that Sarah did in '98/'99 in the wake of her breakthrough records Fumbling Towards Ecstasy and Surfacing. The 23 songs stretch to almost 2 hours and covers her library of (at the time) 4 records. The show was recorded in Portland and her rabid audience is evident from the frenzied response to the first few chords of "Building a Mystery". Her vocals are spot on as would expect from someone with such storied pipes and she brings a deep passion to her lyrics, curling her voice around each and every syllable.
As to be expected when performing songs for a long time, arrangements tend to change either to chase off boredom or to better reflect the artist's updated mindset to a melody or lyric. With both "Plenty", "Mary" and "Hold On", the live renderings do not have the stark quality of the studio versions. While still enjoyable, they lose a bit of the urgency that enveloped the originals. "Hold On", in particular, a song about a friend dying of AIDS, seems almost serene in delivery instead of the desperate, almost hopeless ambience of the "Fumbling…" version.
I've always experienced (not listened to) Sarah's vocals in the way that I imagine heroin or methadone addicts convert the drug into the warm, sunlight-basking qualities that they can cocoon with for the next few hours. Though I gravitate more towards her exceptional first two records, Vox and Solace, her honey-hued voice continues to cast its spell. Although the more subdued material gives her a chance to spread her voice out like spider webs from note to note, she also shines on the more upbeat material. "Vox" is positively bouncy while "Building a Mystery" and "Into the Fire" are foot moving. None are more impressive however than one of her jewels, a muscular set-closing version of "Possession" that ends off with Sarah holding the note to a jaw-dropping length, clearly the defining moment of the concert.
Mirrorball - The Complete Concert captivates you from beginning to end and is a perfect representation of an artist that is as adept in a live setting as she is in the studio.