Liz Mc Comb
- home - discography - Olympia 1998 Live
To Order Video Box Audio Box

Once upon a time music was not merely a pastime, singinq not just a pleasure, rhythm not only a game...

Liz McComb’s ancestors knew blessed time, cursed time only too well for her to forget it a single instant. It was not so long ago that thousands of Africans became Americans by force, their only way of coping by clinging to the vestiges of their culture and embracing the foundations of a religion imposed upon them but which also gave them reasons for hope.

Within a few decades (at the beginninq of the 19th century), negro slaves became the most ardent, the most fervent of all Christians. In spite of their conditions, this religion spoke to them only of love, humanity and freedom - everything that had been taken from them - they adopted it and in return gave it in the most beautiful music Christianity had inspired in its followers since Johann Sebastian Bach. ' Spirituals ' and ' gospel songs ' constitute without a doubt the richest repertoire of sacred music of the last two centuries.

Music first of slaves, then that of the oppressed and downtrodden, the abolition of slavery (whose symbolic date is now celebrated) did not change their condition much. “The same old shit ”, to use a common ghetto phrase : at the dawn of the 21st century conditions are still much beffer for whites in North America, as they are everywhere else throughout the world.

A positive result of this interminable tragedy is the splendeur of an intact music, one dating back ta a period when it was the only expression of hope. Gospel has become a universel language, the source of inspiration for most of this century’s popular musics (jazz, rhythmn'n'blues, rock’n'roll, soul, reggae, funk ... ) and remains one of America’s most vital and lively musical styles. Everyone loves gospel... but it remains above all the music of the poor, of those who (according to the Gospel) belong to the Kingdom of Heaven.

This is why - beyond the wealth of music included - this live album is so exceptional. On January 1, 1998, Liz McComb gave two sold-out performances at the most celebrated concert space in Paris, the Olympia. That night, Liz McComb turned it into a temple full of love, a concert hall charged with the same passionate desire of her ancestors for the equality of races. To state that this concert was an act of generosity would be an understatement, because Liz McComb's song is generosity itself. The concerts were free, reserved only for the unemployed, the homeless, the wretched of the earth, the most helpless of all her sisters and brothers.

Most of those present understood nothing of the words, which made the music that much more poignant. One senses a rare communion with an exceptional audience throughout this live recording, the “ chosen few ” truly participating, reacting immediately and not clapping against the beat the way audiences do in fancy churches.

The concert starts with Liz alone at the piano, singing one of the most beaufiful spirituels of slavery times, “ Sit Down, Servant ”, an admirable poem about the Last Judgement filled with black humour and which assimilates death with supreme freedom for those who have suffered all their lives... But Liz McComb is in no hurry to die, and when she attacks “ Why Don't You ? ” or “ Let the Church Roll On ” you immediately think Jesus Christ would have loved rock’n'roll, and that no one else - except for perhaps Aretha Franklin or Nina Simone - has succeeded so well in making her voice and piano pray together as one.

Where does this energy come from, literally transporting Liz McComb towards “ The Man Upstairs ” ? it is an eternal cry that takes us beyond musical pleasure, and it does not matter whether we share her religions beliefs when she invites us to chase “ Old Satan Away ”.

Then the timeless mystery of swinq takes over, and Liz starts into that sublime, heartbreaking song, perhaps the purest one in a long time that a singer (since Billie Holiday ?) has addressed to all humanity: “ What Happened to Love ? ”... The audience at the Olympia, the unemployed and homeless, listened spellbound, in knowing silence. Yes, Liz McComb's message can be understood in any language, her song a flame flickering from her lips and from her fingertips : “ Fire ”, the song when the singer uses her voice like an offering to her backing musiciens, blendinq with the organ and drummer’s cymbals in a definitive communion.

The Olympia has suddenly become a church : for the first time the most famous of European concert halls vibrates to true gospel the way it is experienced every Sunday on the other side of the Atlantic.

Liz McComb then interprets “ I'm Just a Poor Wayfaring Stranger ” for all the immigrants in the world, followed by her famous “ Time is now ” : time comes to a standstill, and one wishes her singing would never cease.

This album is the souvenir of an extraordinary concert that evokes a time when music was for countless human beings their only expression of life and liberty, sung in a way we would all like to sing.

This album, Liz McComb’s fifth, reveals to us her true personality : more than a great gospel singer, she is an extremist of love who dreams of sharing her nadveté with us.

One century ago, the main Christian writer, Leon Bloy, said that “ Nadveté is the genius of those who own nothing else. ”

Gérald Arnaud /translation : Jerome Rees

DvD and video
Concert calendar
Photo album

mail to webmaster