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Singer Lisa Fischer more than just a Rolling Stones backup

What: Lisa Fischer and Grand Baton with Blue Moon Marquee When: Tonight, 7:30 p.m. (doors at 6:30 p.m.) Where: Royal Theatre Tickets: $49.50/$39.50 through 250-386-6121 or rmts.bc.
Singer Lisa Fischer performed with the Rolling Stones on Tuesday night before heading to Victoria.

What: Lisa Fischer and Grand Baton with Blue Moon Marquee

When: Tonight, 7:30 p.m. (doors at 6:30 p.m.)

Where: Royal Theatre

Tickets: $49.50/$39.50 through 250-386-6121 or


It has been more than a quarter-century since Lisa Fischer joined the Rolling Stones, and the thrill of her signature moment during each performance with the rock ’n’ roll icons — a duet with Mick Jagger on the anti-war song Gimme Shelter — has lost none of its impact, the Brooklyn singer says.

“It’s always had the same meaning,” Fischer said in an email Tuesday, during a tour stop with the Rolling Stones. “But through the years that meaning has become deeper due to the world not always learning its lessons.”

An ongoing interest in the song is fortuitous for Fischer, 56, who performed Gimme Shelter with the Stones Tuesday night in Milwaukee. She is expected to uncork her own jazzy cover of the track in Victoria tonight during her Royal Theatre debut, and will likely do so again in Vancouver on Thursday. Her paint-peeling Gimme Shelter solos will continue during each of the remaining six summer dates with the Stones she is committed to through July.

Her career has been subject to such solo-to-backup swings for as long as she can remember. Fischer has been active as a singer since 1983, first as a solo artist (under the name Xena) before establishing herself as an in-demand backup singer. She has continued to balance a career of her own — Fischer’s solo hit How Can I Ease the Pain won her the 1991 Grammy for best female R&B vocal performance — with her commitment to others.

She has sung on recordings by Dionne Warwick, Billy Ocean, Patti LaBelle and Luther Vandross, and has done extensive touring with everyone from Chris Botti to Sting. In 2013, she was featured prominently in the documentary 20 Feet From Stardom, which profiled Fischer alongside other notable backup singers such as Darlene Love and Merry Clayton, who sang on the studio version of Gimme Shelter in 1969. The film won the 2014 Academy Award for best documentary feature.

Fischer came across during the film as someone who is happy to let others have the spotlight. She values her opportunity to contribute, but is not otherwise interested in what singing with stars can do for her own career.

“I’m thankful for every opportunity to sing, either in the studio or live, with each and every artist I’ve had the honour to work for,” Fischer said. “Each of them are unique.”

Fischer will make a rare run through Canada this week with her band, Grand Baton, which includes guitarist JC Maillard, drummer Thierry Arpino and bassist Aidan Carroll. Many will come hoping to hear songs by the Rolling Stones, and though she happily obliges by covering Jumpin’ Jack Flash, It’s Only Rock ’n’ Roll (But I Like It), Miss You, Wild Horses and Gimme Shelter, she does so in a way that makes the material her own.

“For me, I believe that it’s a matter of being present for each moment. I feel that as I get older, I have to remind myself that each moment is new. No matter how familiar it may seem, it’s never the same.”

She has tackled songs by a wide range of artists in concert, including everyone from singer Amy Grant to acoustic bluesman Eric Bibb. When it comes to gleaning tidbits about her personal taste in music by the choice of material she performs, there is no through-line, Fischer says.

“I like to think of myself as someone who serves and loves music as a whole, and within that there are many rooms. It’s about the connection I feel in my heart to the story, married with the melody and the freedom of possibilities.”

At this point in her career, she has difficulty pointing to one aspect of her life as more ideal than others. If she’s singing, she’s happy. Be it for Rolling Stones fans or those of her own, Fischer never misses the moments in which she connects with someone through song.

“If I have to point to moments in general, it would be those special moments when you know the music has [woven] itself around everyone and everything around you. When time becomes timeless.”