On Wednesday the 26th of September, 2018, the American jazz and gospel singer performed to a sold-out audience at The Istrian National Theatre in Pula.
Following a long tradition of musicians drawing inspiration from the spiritual and cultural qualities of the American South, the Georgia-born singer, Lizz Wright’s latest performance reflected the kind of strength often present within gospel music.
The acclaimed vocalist and steward of American music has a reputation for bringing brilliant colour and vibrancy to original works and compositions by some of the greatest songwriters of our time. Wright has garnered widespread attention as one of the most venerable popular singers of her generation through the release of six critically acclaimed albums. Lizz’s latest album, Grace, nine covers plus one original, spans musical genres and eras, yet manages to contain continuity by its sense of place. Although recorded soon after last years’ presidential election, ‘Grace’ manages to avoid politics, highlighting the intimate connections that music can afford and which can bind humanity.
Over 70 songs were collected by close friend and producer, Joe Henry, for Wright to cover. She went on to select those she felt best represented her own past and present. After taking time out during the making of this latest album, Lizz took a road trip through the rural American South and reacquainted herself with the people and places from which she draws her roots. The result is a 10 track album that blends contemporary and traditional spirituals with reworked originals from artists such as Ray Charles and KD Lang.
The Istrian National Theatre in Pula, Croatia, saw Lizz showcase her most recent album as part of the cities Backstage Live Festival, and this included the opportunity for her to revisit personal favourites from her 15 year career in music. Joined on stage by a four piece band, Lizz opened the night with her rendition of ‘Barley’, a hymn of strength written by the up and coming band, Bird Of Chicago. The captivated audience delighted in Lizz’s spellbindingly deep-toned vocals and the welcome groove that underscores the track. Sister Rosetta Thorpe’s ‘Singing In My Soul’ was done justice by Wright’s ability to add Southern elegance to the music, making any song her own. A breathtaking interpretation of ‘Seems I’m Never Too Tired Lovin’ You’, a track memorably performed by Nina Simone, saw Wright bring dignity to a song that hints at desire and desperation, and transform it into an anthem of a love that can weather any storm, remaining both determined and intimate.
A drifting, slowed-down version of Allen Toussaint’s ‘Southern Nights’ had an almost surreal quality to it, while Bob Dylan’s ‘Every Grain Of Sand’ captured the resilience which is nestled deep within America’s Southern culture. The album’s sole original composition, ‘All The Way Here’, a collaboration with Maia Sharp, shares the story of a traveller, returning to her roots, weary yet stronger for what she’s experienced on her journey. This track is clearly inspired by Wrights own travels and growth suggesting that the singer has found herself, a sentiment that is reinforced by the entire album. The spiritual and sensual, which are ever present in the vocalist’s music, brought a soulful intimacy to the nights performance and proved that Lizz Wright’s talent is both divine and enduring. The Grace tour continues across the United States before returning to Europe in early 2019.
All images taken by the Total Croatia News music photographer David Gasson
For more images of Lizz Wright in concert, you’re more than welcome to view Chasing The Light Art, the music photography magazine of Total Croatia News photographer David Gasson.
There are a few more concerts coming up in and around Pula and Zagreb which we at Total Croatia News will be covering, as well as bringing you exclusive pictures of.
Avishai Cohen, the Israeli jazz double bassist, singer and composer will be in Pula on the 29th of October, 2018.
Madeleine Peyroux, the American jazz singer and songwriter will also take to Pula a little later, on the 9th of December, 2018
All tickets and more information can be found at Backstage Live.
Jethro Tull – 13th of October, 2018 – Eventim.hr
Beth Hart – 1st of December, 2018 – Awaiting confirmation