By Kendall Alexander
If you were at the Keswick Theatre in the Glenside on Thursday evening, you witnessed a most prolific performance from a versatile entertainer— Lisa Fischer. She is no stranger to the bright lights and stage madness of performing, as she has been a backup singer for acts including The Rolling Stones and Luther Vandross for more than 20 years. Her impressive voice doesn’t stop there. She is also has won a Grammy or Best Female R&B Performance with the smash hit “How Can I Ease the Pain?” For as long as she can remember, Fischer has been on and off of planes and trains and in fitting rooms preparing for a show, but this hectic schedule does not seem to tire her out. She is packed with energy that she spreads to her listeners. In March, I got a chance to interview Fischer before her performance in Philly.
SUN: What made you want to be a singer, and what allows you to maintain excitement for performing?
LF: Have you ever walked through a hallway and heard the muffled sounds of beats, music, melodies and laughter? The sound of this for me was like a warm fire at the end of a tunnel. Singing for me feels like a continuous celebration of life! What allows me to stay excited about performing is the idea that every second is a new and precious one, a chance to create, explore and share.
SUN: Do you have a particular method to prepare for a performance?
LF: Other than making sure I’m rested, that I’ve eaten well and I’m vocally warmed up, the most important thing for me is stress control. I find that I need as much peace and quiet before a performance as I can carve out, given the environment.
SUN: How do you write songs, what is your process? Are you behind any of the production of those songs?
LF: I’m not behind any of the production as of yet. I’m not really a songwriter in a classic sense so I would say things come to me when they’re ready…But they tend to come to me in little dreams and whispers and after that I think and meditate on the rest on some level. I look for inspiration from everywhere.
SUN: What is the most memorable experience you’ve had while touring?
LF: In 2006, the Stones gave a free concert on Copacabana beach with more than a million souls attending. I’ll never forget standing there looking out into the crowd and feeling love…People were everywhere, on the beach, in the water, on boats…Amazing!
SUN: In celebration of Women’s History Month, share with us an uplifting message for women.
LF: Care for the little voice inside whether she’s laughing, crying, screaming or even unsure. She needs our love and attention too.
SUN: : Are you happy with the current state of the music industry?
LF: How can anybody be happy with the current state of the music industry? My fellow singers and musicians need more work, especially work that pays them better wages so that they can afford basic forms of security, like health insurance for themselves and their families.
SUN: If you could describe Lisa Fischer and the Grand Baton in three words, what would they be?
LF: It’s difficult to describe because I would need to be more self-conscious than I would like. But, I can tell you that the synergy that we [Aidan (guitar), Thierry (drummer), JC (musical director) and I] share is what I live for…the music feels open and leaves room for life… three words? Breathe, release, repeat.
SUN: What do you want the audience to take away from your show at the Keswick?
LF: My hope is that the sharing of experiences through sound will connect us all…That it’ll take us down that long hallway into that room with the warm fireplace…It’s the feeling of this warmth that I hope will linger.
There was no need for the singer to worry, the warmth through her voice and the accompanying instrumentation filled the auditorium as the performance progressed. The music was light and ethereal, almost as if a meditation session could commence with the consumption of her intonation—she makes singing look supernatural. The blending of genres like R&B, easy listening and the infusion of Spanish and Indian sounds made for a relaxed but energized atmosphere.
Fischer entered the stage breaking the ice and cracking jokes, but her performance was no laughing matter. Her ability to change gears and flow in and out of vibratos was captivating, as her voice evokes freedom. She had one mic in her hand and the other on a stand as she switched back and forth to create an echoing sound. Even her movement on stage was languid and free. I for one was taken far away from the Philadelphia suburb and into distant lands where I was able to fully relax and decompress—her voice has healing powers.
While it became a bit obvious that Fischer’s drummer was a stand-in, the audience was forgiving and still continued to feel the groove that The Grand Baton was delivering. I left the Keswick feeling light and full of warm, loving energy. Anytime Lisa Fischer comes to the city, a crowd needs to form because she is genuinely a treat to see in action.