Lisa Fischer in concert is addictive.
Every performance is so enriching, so exciting, so transcendent that you want more. You can see her again and again. Which I do, as do some other Twin Cities music lovers. And you still want more.
Fischer, 57, the backup singer extraordinaire who quit the Rolling Stones this year after 26 years of touring with them, returned to the Dakota Jazz Club on Sunday. She was there in March for two magical shows. Her two 90-minute performances Sunday were, in a word, extraordinary. It’s easy to run out of superlatives when describing Fischer in concert.
With remarkable vocal range and vocabulary, Fischer can sing soul, jazz, rock, gospel, pop, folk and classical with equal facility and authority. She often mixes styles in the same song, sometimes in the same vocal line. Her approach tends to be intimate, artful and almost meditative, accompanied by her interpretive dancing, but she also can cut loose and funk with fierceness and rock with abandon.
On Sunday in her fifth trip to the Dakota in three years, Fischer and her backup trio, Grand Baton, offered some numbers Twin Cities audiences hadn’t heard from them before. Actually, the first selection of the night was one Fischer was essaying for the first time as a solo performer.
At the beginning of the set, she mentioned that July 1 was the 11th anniversary of the passing of soul sensation Luther Vandross, for whom she sang backup for years. To honor him, she served up “A House Is Not a Home,” one of his concert signatures. She pointed out that Dionne Warwick and many others had also recorded the song.
Fischer’s reading in Sunday’s first set was fairly free-form jazz, making the melody written by Burt Bacharach almost unrecognizable as Fischer sang softly, often reaching for her upper register, accompanied by Aidan Carroll’s plucked upright bass. By song’s end, she was fighting back tears.
The same song kicked off the second set but the vocal interpretation was more soulful, more melodic and less drawn out – and more impactful with the sell-out audience.
Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song,” another new entry, turned up in both sets. In the opening program, Fischer and Grand Baton found a funk zone with a swinging undercurrent, aided by some thrilling jazz-rock guitar and later some heavy rock licks from JC Maillard, and some delightful vocal riffing by Fischer in sync with the guitar groove.
The late-night “Immigrant Song” featured some vocal improvising about love willing out and Fischer demonstrating that she can out-scream Robert Plant. But you knew that if you’ve ever heard her wail on “Gimme Shelter” in concert with the Stones.
In Sunday’s nightcap, Fischer opted for “Last Goodbye” from her 1991 debut album (and her only solo album) instead of the usual “How Can I Ease the Pain,” her Grammy-winning hit that is a fixture in her solo shows. Even though probably no one in the audience knew the un-introduced number, the Dakota-goers hung on every word of this inside-out soul song.
Because with the way Fischer interprets and inhabits a song, every selection – even ones as familiar as “Gimme Shelter” (the first set encore) and “Wild Horses” (encore for the late show) -- is a wonderful new adventure worth taking.