This is it. The trifecta of my June 2015 concerts came to a close with the one and only Ms. Lisa Fischer. It was by far the most different of the three shows that I saw yet she was certainly a highlight. I left in a bit of a daze still wound up in the magic that is Ms. Fischer’s voice.
Ms. Fischer is most known as an incredible background singer, this show was an opportunity to see her voice take centre stage. She’s also working over time singing with her band Grand Baton and currently on tour with the Rolling Stones, her show allowed the audience to see a stripped down version of Ms. Fischer. She stood centre stage dressed in a draped red shawl, simple black top and green wrap skirt, her feet bare directly connecting her to the stage she was on.
She welcomes the audience, her voice is barely above a whisper, yet it is soft and rich, hiding the power that she is capable of. She began her set with a simple prayer in song asking for heaven to come and rest within the room. The room is still, entranced by her voice wrapped in the melodies like children swaddled in their mother’s arms. She uses a very unique technique of occasionally singing into a microphone with lots of echo and delay before returning to her main vocal mic. This enables her to be her own back up singer, using the notes and bits that she sings in to the effected microphone as melodies for her to play with. It was something I’d never seen before but I really enjoyed.
As the night progresses, her voice shines and rises and falls with every ebb and flow of rhythm. Her joy is apparent as she occasionally jumps at a good performance with glee like a giddy little child on Christmas morning. Yet it’s not just her voice. Ms. Fischer steps back at various moments to allow her band members to shine; giving them her full attention and displaying joy and excitement at a job well done. Her band is excellent as they support her to the fullest but also tell their own stories with their instruments.
We are able to see a confident and purposed Lisa as she shares stories of her own personal growth and coming to love and accept the woman that she has become. One of the clearest moments of growth in my eyes was listening to her perform her Grammy-award winning hit ‘How Can I Ease the Pain’. The arrangement took the R&B power ballad to a simple, acoustic heartfelt cry. As the notes rose from the depths of her being to resonate within the room, her confidence as a performer was apparent as she did not shy away from the silence and the intimacy of the moment. It was absolutely beautiful.
But my favourite moment was her last song. As she is most known for her work with the Rolling Stones, I heard many people hoping that she would sing the Stones hit ‘Gimme Shelter’. The song is a rip roaring battle cry that warns that tragedy is but a moments notice away. One of the reasons the song is so well known is for the strong female vocal that proclaims that rape and murder are but a shot away. It remains one of the most distinct vocals on a Rolling Stones track and was originally performed by another famed backup singer, Merry Clayton – who was also featured in the film ’20 Feat from Stardom’ alongside Ms. Fischer. Ms. Fischer is no stranger to the part as she has sung it with the Stones thousands of times. Yet when she performs it on her own, she makes it hers. The battle cry turns into a haunting warning as the textures of the melodies shine through.
However, she doesn’t forget the powerful vocal section and seemingly from out of nowhere comes the famous declaration:
It’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
Her voice soars and fills the room. The power she has forces the notes to confront the silence without the assistance of the microphone. Yet we’re not left there. As she reminds us that it is love that can save this world. She invites the audience to sing with her and she compliments our song, even though we all know she was the vocal star. She finished as calmly as she entered and after a simple bow she waved with a smile and exited the stage, leaving us absolutely enchanted with what we heard.
When I heard Ms. Fischer was coming to my city, I knew I had to go. I even tweeted about her show and she ever so kindly made this almost 20 year old jump up and down with excitement as she favourited and responded to it. At the time, I wasn’t working and I really wasn’t sure how I was gonna pay to go but I knew I had to go. Why? Because I wanted the opportunity to hear her beautiful voice for myself. She has effortlessly song on so many different records and she has not changed her voice but has instead embraced it. Now, I’m pretty sure I was the youngest person in that entire room. Most of her audience seemed to be in their older 40s and 50s. However, to be in the presence of a woman who’s voice has graced so many different records was one of the best experiences of my life. If I could, I would go back and simply close my eyes and listen, allow myself to be completely absorbed in the beautiful melodies. It was absolutely spectacular.
If she were to ever reads this, I would only want to say one thing. Ms. Fischer, thank you for inspiring this young kid from the Pacific Northwest to always remain in love with melodies. Your humility and grace make your voice even richer and it was truly a privilege to experience a moment with such a master of her craft. Thank you for sharing your stories of your journey to loving yourself and for reminding me that it is a daily choice to embrace the artist and person that you are to the fullest degree. I would hope that one day I would get to meet you and thank you personally for giving of yourself to share your gift with the world.
Until Next Time,
Peace & Harmonies