First Night: Tough girls kick up a soul storm

Women in Music Albert Hall, London
ACCORDING to Jewish mythology, Adam's first wife, Lilith, was thrown out of the Garden of Eden for being too independent. She went on to fend very nicely for herself, thank you, and her namesake Lilith Fair, a "celebration of women in music", echoes such DIY sentiments.

Emphasising entertainment over ideology, and transforming the cavernous Royal Albert Hall into a kind of Greenham Common fun park, last night's conservative bill - Lisa Loeb, N'dea Davenport, Beth Orton, Alison Moyet, Sarah McLachlan and Sinead O'Connor - delivered a marathon six hours of folk-rock, soul and pop.

Lilith Fair was founded in 1996 by McLachlan, a 30-year-old Canadian singer-songwriter, as a riposte to the testosterone-fuelled, peripatetic thrashfest that is Lollapalooza. In a musical climate where many American radio stations refuse to play women back to back, Lilith Fair and its alternating line-up has gone on to become the world's most financially lucrative roaming festival. It's also turned the savvy McLachlan into a multi-million selling artist, and has raised money for women-centred charities.

The question is, of course, does Lilith Fair work in the UK? McLachlan, the only artist to have performed on all 170 coast-to-coast dates, is a huge drawcard back home; here she is largely unknown.

But, eschewing the F-word (feminism) while espousing its principles (that women matter as much as men), McLachlan et al stuck two manicured fingers up to the laddish music industry and turned out some memorable performances while they were at it. Lilith Fair will be back, with all three stages, for a European tour in 1999; whether they'll be able to pull that one off is another matter.