I drafted this in my phone last Saturday... My bad, I’m just getting around to posting it. > It is very loosely edited <
August 19, 2017
About 2 weeks ago I had surgery. I share this now, merely to contextualize my concert experience this evening with Lizz Wright, it felt otherworldly, in a good way. (I’ll write a post soon about the surgery, but for now, just receive it as context for this post.)
Weeks prior to the surgery I’d been to several shows including, Mary J. Blige with Lalah Hathaway, and Rachelle Farrell. These sistas supported my pre-op plan and were key in helping me wrap my head around the thought of having a procedure done. At 43, I’ve never had a surgery or been “under.” The anesthesiologist was shocked that at my age, I’d never had a surgery.
2 weeks later, and I’m well on my healing journey, and tonight, Lizz Wright’s voice & the lyrics of the songs she sang, were my balm.
This was: Truth and Racial Healing Concert Featuring Lizz Wright at the Logan Center. I don’t even now how I found out about it, but I am sooooo glad I did. And, who knew that Lizz is now on the board of Little Black Pearl and she’s their resident gardener? Well I didn’t. So, Chicago is like her second home now. How cool is that? Very!
Opening for Lizz was this dope Puerto Rican singer, Sandra Antongiorgi, and her band. Sis sings with such slow, intentional…urgeny, anddddddd she slayed a Spanish cover of Jill Scott’s “He Love’s Me.” What?!?!?!? That was all things amazing!
So, by the time Lizz Wright came on, I was ret. My intention was set, and I’d even pulled out my prayer beads and dabbed on some lavender oil. I was intentional on this concert experience supporting my healing journey.
Lizz came out with, “Old Man.” And then she gave us “Barley,” off her forthcoming album, Grace. It felt like she channeled Mavis Staples and freedom songs on this one. She even pulled out her “brown praying hands” tambourine getting it ready for some thumpin’.
*Barley: The wind that shakes the barley will not shake me…
The richness and endlessness of her voice, and the lyrics, continued to settle on me as she sang, “Somewhere Down the Mystic” and “New Game.” She invited out two Chicago vocalists to accompany her, and I got all warm fuzzied by what felt like, camaraderie and reverence between the three of them.
*Somewhere Down the Mystic: My soul will walk up the mountain trail. Somewhere down the mystic another kind of angel calls.
*New Game: Did you ask about me? Yes, I’m running, staying down low, spirit up high.I’m not tired yet, staying ready. This is a new game, gonna flow like nothing behind. Running over. Rolling under. Nothing broken, still making time.
Between songs Lizz shared that she doesn’t talk much between songs because it’s too many parts of her brain working at the same time. I chuckled, “Okay sus, so we’ve been told…” Real talk though, I received that as a meditation and welcomed the stillness between songs. Also, she noted that really wanted to do this performance, and since she’s scheduled to be back in town at another venue in the coming months, she willingly and convincingly got “permission” to do this show.
On “Walk with me Lord” the band did solos and the white boy on the church organ, my my, he played like he was a Black Pentecostal organist from down south. And, when they flowed into, “my soul says yes…” all I could do was drop my head back and look up in gratitude. #surrender
On “Freedom” I was free to chair dance and she was free to gather her dress in her hand and crunch it at the thigh before returning to playing the tambourine. And she can “PLAY” the tambourine, frfr (for real, for real). Like Sunday morning, play the tambourine. Like praise & worship, bass & kickdrum, play the tambourine.
*Freedom: I say freedom, you must hang out amongst the stars. It’s kinda hard for you in a world like ours… Call again and I’ll answer
“Speak Your Heart” felt appropriate for this day, this time. All that’s happening personally and in the world, it’s a manifesta of sorts for courage & resilience. Nearing the close of the song, she stepped away from the mic and self-soothed as if she needed a moment with her feelings. Patting herself on her chest. She returned to the mic and the music faded. My response of “niceeeeeee,” softly seeped from my lips. That was a very nice moment. In that moment one had to be “present” to get it.
* I do want to be your reoccurring dream…I want to be real to you, no more disguises. Let me in, or let me go…
Another treat from her new project is the Nina Simone cover of, “Seems I’m Never Tired of Loving You.”
*Fun fact: This song was written by Aretha Franklin’s sister, Carolyn Franklin.
This. song. right. here. It’s so abysmal, yet so easy on the spirit–thinly draped across the heart like a fleece woobie/blankie that babies rub against their face for contentment and safety. As I’m sitting there with the lyrics and the images, Lizz revealed the story of making the album through images, I thought: “Dear Auntie O, Lizz Wright’s cover of, “Seems I’m Never Tired of Loving You,” and these images NEED to be the opening song or at least played on OWN’s “Black Love” show. Jus’sayin’…holla at ya girl, Auntie.”
She welcomed Sandra back on the stage for “Painted Sky,” and she closed out the set with “Coming Home.” I wasn’t ready for her to go though. I was greedy, I didn’t just one more, I wanted several more songs. Hell she coulda stood there and sang “row row row yo boat….” The liniment of her voice. The balm of her instrument.
She did return, for an encore. She sang: “I Remember, I Believe” by her godmother Bernice Johnson-Reagon from Sweet Honey in the Rock. Lizz shared that she was leaving us with this memory because sometimes, it’s these memories that give us strength.
As I stood to clap for her, I raised from the chair feeling good. Grounded. Purpose-filled. Healing.
P.S. From what I’ve heard, Grace, her new album has a chuchy, twangy, Lizzy feel to it! Lol lol lol. I’m here for all of it!