The three chart-topping singers will join a virtual Who's Who of female recording artists, including Fiona Apple, the Cardigans, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Shawn Colvin, Paula Cole, Emmylou Harris, Indigo Girls, Jewel, Suzanne Vega and festival founder Sarah McLachlan.
A second stage will feature Wild Colonials, Victoria Williams and Kelly Willis, as well as stand-up comics. "The possibility that I could give emerging artists a real platform is a thrill to me," McLachlan says. "I would love to see somebody become successful from the tour or at least get a start."
That Lilith Fair will have more star power than Lollapalooza is no accident. McLachlan first decided to assemble the tour last fall, partially in response to the testosterone-loaded lineup of Lollapalooza (Metallica, Soundgarden, the Ramones and Rancid) and the fact that only two female acts (Reba McEntire and Alanis Morissette) placed among the Top 10 concert draws in 1997.
"This tour is a huge step in the right direction for women's rights, but it isn't a soapbox for extremist feminism," McLachlan says. "It isn't about dissing men....It doesn't exclude men, it simply celebrates women."
The Canadian modern-rock chanteuse figured her tour would appeal to a huge, untapped audience. "Three years ago, promoters were really scared to put two women on the same bill. Now, the climate has changed dramatically."
To prove her point, she launched a four-city mini tour at the end of last year that played to capacity crowds. The full-blown festival should be one of the summer's musical highlights. "It's always good to have fresh ideas and combinations out there," says Gary Bongiovanni, editor of the concert trade Pollstar. "It's anybody's guess just how big this could be."
The festival derives its title from Old Testament legend. Lilith was Adam's first wife, but she was dumped 'cause she was too headstrong, then was banished from Eden to make way for Eve.
The 35-date tour kicks off July 5 at the Gorge in central Washington state and continues through August. The complete itinerary will be announced some time in the next two weeks, a festival spokeswoman said.