Jay Meehan: Lisa Fischer
I have no alternative but to put the blame for my latest memory quandary solely at the feet of the Park City Institute and their "Muscle Shoals with Lisa Fischer" concert scheduled for this upcoming Sunday at Deer Valley’s Snow Park Amphitheater. A monkey wrench has been found in my medial-temporal-lobes.
I will need some forbearance. It will be a digression-rich landscape as we attempt to negotiate a rabbit hole of infinite proportions. As it turns out, purely imagined events from the past will not only affect the future but will help define it. Long-held cultural catechisms have become suspect. Seemingly, I’ve lost my religion.
You might recall, during the recent past, a similar concert production from the nice folks at PCI whereby musicians and concepts from two Sundance films, Greg "Freddy" Camalier’s "Muscle Shoals" and Morgan Neville’s "20 Feet From Stardom" were bundled into one quite-satisfying show.
Featuring the über-talented and often exploited Darlene Love from the latter and "the Swampers" studio musicians from the former, Teri Orr’s original notion proved successful enough to be brought back again, only this time with Lisa Fischer as the unheralded diva of under-the-radar background singers.
Although it was Merry Clayton’s unearthly background vocal on the original studio version of the Rolling Stones "Gimme Shelter," for the past 25 years, it would be the dynamic performance art of Lisa Fischer in tandem with Mick Jagger that would turn the song into one of rock and roll’s most iconic anthems.
The manner in which she would explode onto center stage from the shadows to join Mick in raucously setting the theme behind the band’s opening rhythms and then strut in the opposite direction while continuing that iconic vocal "hook" ("War children, it’s just a shot away!") floors me every time I see it.
What’s most ironic about my memories of the Stones and "Gimme Shelter" in a concert setting is a recollection that, as it turned out, never took place. Somehow I invented a scenario and, over many years, not only accepted it as truth but, more than likely, retold it a thousand fold. The embellishment of beer, no doubt!
We have to go back to the 1969 Rolling Stones "Let it Bleed" tour, which, save for a rather inauspiciously added stop the following month at the Altamont Speedway in the Bay Area, took place totally within the confines of November. I’m the guy up in the nosebleed section of the L.A. Forum for the first show of November 8th.
There were two shows per night on a few of the tour stops and due to the L.A. Kings playing a hockey game earlier in the afternoon and the ensuing ice removal and concert set up, the second show didn’t let out until somewhere shy of 5:00 a.m. L.A. Times pop music critic Robert Hilburn tagged his review after the earlier Stones hit "Let’s Spend the Night Together."
I remember a couple of other items from that night which, so far, have actually held up to scrutiny. It was guitarist Mick Taylor’s first tour replacing Brian Jones and it was the plodding and methodical installation of then high-tech amplification and lighting systems by then-legendary rock concert set-up man Chip Monck that caused the delay.
B.B. King opened the show and was followed by the Ike and Tina Turner Revue. Both were astounding! Then came the Stones! "Gimme Shelter" arrived about two-thirds of the way through their set with Jagger bringing out Tina Turner as a way of upping the ante. She reduced the house to rubble. I remember it well.
Well, as you can surmise, that last episode appears to have existed only in my mind. Careful research has shown that not only did Tina not appear onstage together with Jagger that night but on any other during that tour. All I can offer in explanation is that it must have been the transcendental power of Lisa Fischer performing a similar function some 20-years later that leaked back through the wormhole to convince me otherwise. Did I mention I was in the nosebleed section?
I should cop out now that I have yet to catch Lisa and Mick do "Gimme Shelter" live. During her now 25-year stint with the band, I’ve only caught the "Voodoo Lounge" and "No Security" tours and the song in question did not make the set list at either Salt Lake stop. I have, however, seen them do that thing they do so well on many videos and not a few feature concert films.
I cannot wait for Sunday evening to witness her exceptional and quite singular art on display. To quote the final verse of "Gimme Shelter": "Love, sister, it’s just a kiss away. It’s just a kiss away!"
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social scenes for more than 40 years.