On Friday, October 23, 2009, I had the great pleasure of seeing Lizz Wright perform live at Alys Stephen Center in Birmingham, Alabama. Wright walked on to the stage in bare feet and a hypnotically, radiant red dress to a tremendous ovation. She told the audience of approximately 200 people, “It’s really good to be here in Birmingham. I really mean it. I’m not a person that just says that. It is really good to be here.” She spoke of spending a nice afternoon walking around in the Five Points area.
With that, the music struck up, Ms. Wright removed her earrings and what followed was 2 hours of pure artistry and sonic amazement, with the acoustics of the theater and Wright’s voice in total agreement.
The setlist for the evening covered a broad swath of the singer’s three albums, plus a soulful version of the classic “C.C. Rider”. Wright’s performance of “I Idolize You” was as seductive as the dress she wore. There was a noticeable roar of approval when the band launched into the title track of her first album recording, Salt . In fact, there was quite a bit of interaction between singer and audience throughout the show. For her version of Sweet Honey In The Rock’s “Hey Mann”, Wright picked up a guitar from the stand to play, when a female audience member yelled out in delight, to which the singer playfully quipped, “Don’t get your hopes up!”
Wright’s band included David Cook on piano and organ, Robin Macatangay on guitars, Nicholas D’Amato on bass, and Brannen Temple on drums. Macatangay solos was tremendous throughout, while Cook could often be seen shaking his head in as much admiration and amazement at Wright’s performance as the audience.
After the show, a huge ovation and the perfectly-chosen Led Zeppelin tune, “Thank You”, as an encore, many in the audience who gathered in the lobby seemed stunned by what they had just witnessed. A gentleman standing in line to buy Wright’s CDs commented on the show saying, “I feel like I underpaid”, while one woman whose first introduction to Wright’s music was that night wondered aloud, “Why haven’t heard of her before? She’s incredible!” The evening would get even more so, as words came that Wright would be coming to the lobby to meet members of the audience and sign autographs.
Wright and her band were as gracious in meeting the audience and there is humble regality to the singer that can not be ignored. It can honestly be said that Wright’s noted feeling of appreciation for being in Birmingham on one rainy night in late October was more than mutual.