Lizz Wright has become a staple of the modern jazz and soul scene since her debut album Salt in 2003. Her 2018 European tour sees her and her band travel across the continent performing tracks from her latest album Grace. The songstress graced an audience at the not-for-profit Union Chapel in Islington with her presence supported by new singer-songwriter LUCA.
“I left speechless, in total awe of Lizz Wright’s voice, performance, her band and the remarkable setting of Union Chapel.”
For an artist with such clear gospel influences, there could be no better venue for Wright to perform in. Not only do the acoustics in the 150 year old venue (having been finished in 1889) support Wright’s style of music perfectly, backed by an extraordinary quartet, but there is also some thing special about hearing her music in a venue with such a rich religious heritage. Her appearance was equally ethereal; commanding each song with powerful yet controlled vocals and looking as though she was truly enjoying the experience found in Islington. Her enjoyment was recognised by the full house as the crowd adorned the soul legend with a standing ovation and extending applause by a full five or so minutes in order to demand an encore. Thankfully we got one. I left speechless, in total awe of Lizz Wright’s voice, performance, her band and the remarkable setting of Union Chapel which, as ever, is a venue that deserves every accolade available.
Wright opened the set with the album opener Barley, a darkly powerful number that allowed her to find her feet, or in Wright’s case, take her shoes off. An early highlight was her cover of Neil Young’s Old Man, a song not found on any of her released work but a part of her live set for some time. A stunning build into Young’s famous chorus accompanied by rolling drums and electric guitar riffs, Wright made it definitively clear that she has the capability to frame any song in her own unique way. The album Grace isn’t distinctly bluesy but her live performance at Union Chapel felt so much so with stripped back quartet arrangements for bass, drums, guitar and organ. Wright’s deep and silky voice was allowed the freedom to express range and note selection without the constraints of choral backing as found on the album, which she took full advantage of during Southern Nights and Seems I’m Never Tired of Loving You, creating an exceptional live duet of voice and organ.
By her own admission, Lizz Wright doesn’t have “good banter” but when a performance is this soulful and honest, who really cares? Wright brought the church to Union Chapel. The band, so unbelievably capable, backed her electrifying solos with, amongst other instruments, a solid four or five minute organ solo that looked like a genuine physical feat yet sounded effortless.
All that alongside Wright at her refined and classy peak. This is an act you should be driven to catch during their 2018 European tour.
“a headline worthy support act.”
At this point, it would be unfair not to mention LUCA, an up and coming singer-songwriter supporting Lizz Wright at Union Chapel. A musician that is difficult to pin down, his almost choral songs arranged with keyboard and cello were honest and truly heartfelt, a rarity for a performer this young. There seemed no confusion in his identity, a voice that soared in falsetto was a unique blend of Jeff Buckley and Tiny Tim. Whilst that comparison might to some seem reductive, I mean it truly and sincerely. There’s nothing comedic or bizarre going on with his performance, it’s a matter of tone. I shan’t even attempt to box him into a genre because I don’t know what it would be. All I know is that I want to hear more and frankly, the acoustics at Union Chapel only furthered what I would describe as a headline worthy support act.
Lizz Wright continues her European tour this spring.
You can find tickets and dates here: https://lizzwright.net/
LUCA’s debut track Wales is out now.
Image: Sam Lawrence