I apologize for taking so long to bring you this review! I decided to skip the pictures since I didn’t really get any good ones, and it takes time to upload them to a post, so why add more delay? This was a great concert, and it was especially interesting because Greater Vision chose to debut quite a few songs from their upcoming CD, For All He’s Done! It was awesome to hear what Rodney has been cooking up lately. I think he’s written some of his best work yet on this new CD. This was also special because it was the first time I’ve seen Legacy Five in concert. So without further ado, here’s a complete set list with comments Continue reading
Category Archives: Concert Reviews
After a rocky start, the server is finally stabilizing a bit for me, but it’s still not entirely reliable.
“We Need Each Other” — entire group. Step-outs from Jim Brady, Ernie Hase, Doug Anderson, Joseph Habedank and the Isaacs.
Joseph’s pastor Dan Scott — bluegrass acapella. I don’t know this song, but I love it! It’s got an “Oh Brother Where Art Thou” feel to it. Here are some of the lyrics: “Jesus tells me not to fear. For he can see beyond the grave. And whosoever will may come. Jesus Christ refuses none.” Then it went into a piano-based number called, “Something’s Got Ahold of Me.”
The Bowlings — “I’ve Touched Calvary”. There’s another male singer with the Bowlings whom I don’t recognize. [Update: This is Troy Peach! I had a funny feeling I recognized him. It's great to see him back on the road again.] They sound great!
Now they’re singing “Your Cries Have Awoken the Master.”
Unfortunately my stream is getting stuck at frequent intervals, so I don’t know how much more I’ll be able to report on. We’ll see if it gets unstuck.
Okay, I finally got the stream back and it’s Gold City singing “Cast My Bread On the Water.”
This is so sad… I can’t get a reliable stream going. Missed a big chunk and am back now, still with Gold City singing “I’m Not Giving Up.” Gold City is using a fill-in tenor. We’re trying to figure out who it was. Daniel Mount just said he hoped it was a fill-in giving the ending. Ouch.
I love it — Jason Crabb let out a whoop, and Joseph said, “He’s a Pentecostal, I’m a Baptist.” Now he’s recognizing all the Perrys alumni on stage with him. Classy.
Karen Peck and New River up now. Singing “Four Days Late.” Now a ballad called “My God Will Always Be Enough.” I’m remembering how pure and controlled Karen Peck’s singing is.
(Realizing that I’m not the only one having feed problems. Makes me feel better.)
Now the Hoppers are up, and Joseph just said that Kim is laid up with sinus issues! Oh no! But thankfully, we have Taranda Greene filling in for her.
“If I Can Help Somebody”
Okay, so it looks like I just missed a lot of awesome stuff, because I’m juggling this with my evening job. Whatever the Hoppers just finished, it was amazing. It caused Joseph to say, “I’m startin’ to feel Pentecostal!”
Jason Crabb just compared the Booth Brothers’ blend to milk chocolate. I couldn’t agree more! They’re up now singing “I Will Serve Thee.” No tracks, just a piano! Now “Every Cry is Heard.” Michael leading the audience in singalong.
Okay folks, big moment! Jason Crabb is welcoming LIBBI STUFFLE on stage! Standing-O! She is singing “Praise You Through the Night.” What a powerful, emotion-drenched performance.
That was the best moment of the night, and I don’t think anything that follows it is even going to come close! She just shared a beautiful update about Tracy—earlier today she asked him if he could kiss her after she kissed him, and he did!
I’m afraid I missed a lot because the stream got stuck. Now I’m back with “If You Knew Him,” and… I have to take the garbage out. BRB.
Libbi is now testifying about her declaration of war on the devil, and her experience fasting and praying for Tracy. I could listen to Libbi testify all day. She’s a little firecracker of Holy Ghost power. What a tough lady of God. Right now, she’s asking for prayer that Tracy will not need a permanent shunt in his brain. The procedure will be very risky if needed.
Phil Hoskins is down at the front with Libbi, and the congregation is stretching their hands toward her while they pray for Tracy. I encourage those of you watching via livestream to pray with them. Matthew Holt is playing “Be Still and Know That He is God” in the background—a great choice.
Now they are all singing “Tis so Sweet to Trust in Jesus,” and I seem to have something in my eye… everybody acapella, audience too, this is gorgeous.
Phil Hoskins prayed and gave an invitation. Nine or ten people stood up in a first profession of faith! Now everyone is singing “Amazing Grace.”
Jason Crabb is taking an offering now. Here is a link for fans who’d like to donate. Make checks payable to College Heights Baptist Church and write “Team Tracy” in the memo line. Matthew Holt is now playing “Great is Thy Faithfulness” while they roll a pictorial tribute to Tracy.
Joseph is now announcing the Isaacs. Hey, I see Zak Shumate on the box! They opened with “Walk On,” and Becky shared a good word about the story of Bartimaeus to set up “Waiting in the Water.” Now a little classic acapella with “I Will Praise Him.” Standing ovation.
The Collingsworth Family is up now. Olivia is taller than both her older sisters now! The ladies are all singing “Fear Not Tomorrow,” including Olivia. Now “Just a Rainy Day.” Now they’re singing a song called “The Healer is Here.” I’m not sure if this new or from an old album of theirs, but I like it.
Joe is up now talking about how much he loves the Collingsworth kids. He then recognized Tracy’s parents and son.
Oh my gosh—it’s Dailey and Vincent AND Ricky Skaggs! Surprise! They’re singing “Noah Found Grace in the Eyes of the Lord.” I believe that’s Christian Davis on bass. There’s a gentleman with bushy beard and glasses singing tenor, and I don’t know who he is but he killed it! Now “I Believe He Gave His Life For Me.” I just love their sound, it’s so pure and simple.
Dailey and Vincent shared about Skaggs’s influence and impact on them, and now Skaggs is sharing a good word. Now he’s playing and singing “Work of Love.”
Last song, “The Fourth Man.” I read that Jeff Parker is normally their baritone, but tonight he’s the one hitting the high notes! I never would have guessed. He’s doing great.
Aaaaand… now Mark Lowry is up! With a cane. He’s joking now about his “bionic leg.”
Mark’s still on a roll, but I was kinda hoping they could bring back the music so I could go to bed… let’s hope he wraps it up soon. Ah, good, he’s singing “Mary Did You Know?” Nice performance from Mark! Except I don’t agree with Joseph’s saying he’s one of the “deepest thinkers” — still, he is entertaining and a good singer.
It’s getting very late, but Clarke Beasley is up saying a few words together with the president of the GMA (didn’t catch her name). It looks like EHSS is next group up. I’ll probably have to sign off here after their set, because it’s about 11:00 where I am!
EHSS is moving briskly through their set. I was hoping for a little new stuff, but they opened with “Someday,” now it’s “Glory to God in the Highest.” I expect they’ll probably close with “Scars in the Hands of Jesus.” We’ll see if I’m right. Memo to Ernie: I LIKE YOUR SUITS! Now if I can just persuade you to get rid of that flowered pink jacket…
Ah, I’m wrong, they’re closing with “Get Away Jordan.” They left it all on the stage with a burst of high energy, no small feat at this time of night.
Les Butler got up briefly and shared that several special guitars are going to be auctioned off by the Singing News on Thursday—signed by every artist at this concert, including Ricky Skaggs!
The Oak Ridge Boys are up now. Singing “Where the Soul of Man Never Dies.” Confession: I’m really just hanging around at this point to see if Jason Crabb is going to sing anything at the end. Now it’s “Farther Along.” Joe Bonsall shared a word, and now they’re leading the audience in an encore.
Oh no… we’re singing “Elvira” in church! Joe Habedank started it, and then it couldn’t be stopped. They were joined by EHSS. Now that was worth staying up for.
Joseph introduced Jason Crabb. He says, “When I grow up, I want to be like Jason Crabb!” Crabb is singing his latest single, called “That’s What the Blood is For.” Strong finish. Now Jason is sharing a testimony I’ve never heard before about his wife’s struggles with rheumatoid arthritis. He used it to set up the title track from his new album, “Love is Stronger.”
He is closing (?) with a stripped-down, piano only rendition of “Through the Fire.” I think I prefer it this way! Okay, now they’re kicking things up and everyone is coming down to join him. Awesome. Libbi came up too.
And that’s a wrap. I will definitely be looking for some of these performances on Youtube later this week. Now Libbi is sharing about the song “Through the Fire” comforted her in the hotel room while Tracy was ill. Jason closed with prayer. Goodnight folks!
Ernie Haase announced on Facebook earlier today that the quartet would be streaming a live concert. I’m watching and live-blogging right now. You can watch with me here. Enjoy!
7:00 Choir is singing a couple songs to warm up.
7:10 Wesley Pritchard just gave away the specials and is now introducing the guys. He’s joked that they’re able to flip to a basketball game that’s going on right now, in case the concert isn’t going well. (They actually showed it on the livestream, so they’re not bluffing!)
1. When the Saints Go Marching In
This is fun! I haven’t heard them pull out this arrangement in… well, come to think of it, I’ve never seen them stage this one! All live-band. Wayne Haun provided some great piano improv.
2. Glory to God in the Highest
Nice. They ended “When the Saints” in the same key as this one begins. By the way, Ernie is wearing “that” jacket. The silver one with… leaves or something on it. And a pink shirt. No comment.
In-between song banter. Ernie just joked that he made a New Year’s Resolution he could keep—eat more and exercise less!
3.I’m Gonna Live Forever
They put a cute twist on this by whistling over the piano intro.
Wesley just told Ernie that they have lots of people logging in from Argentina. Ernie says that somebody from Argentina had messaged him right before the concert asking them to sing “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” on the third song. When Ernie asked why the third song, the guy said, “Because I’m old, and it’s two hours later here in Argentina, so I might fall asleep after your third song.” So, for the fourth song, in hopes that our Argentinian friend is sometimes awake…
4. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
5. Reason Enough
Now Ernie is introducing Paul Harkey. “Scars In the Hands?” Yes, I think so.
6. Scars In the Hands
7. I Pledge Allegiance
Been a little while since they pulled this one out. I like this one pretty well. Standing ovation, very inspiring. Now they’re singing “God Bless America,” except Ernie wanted to change the word “bless” to “heal,” to make it more like a prayer. An interesting thought, but I think it doesn’t sing quite as well. Also, I’m not sure that the “divisiveness” Ernie referred to in the setup is something we need to be “healed” from, if “divisiveness” is another word for the incompatibility of good and evil. If so, then bring on the division.
Ernie just recognized the servicemen in the audience, a nice touch.
8. Moving Up to Gloryland
Our feed fell a little behind earlier, and fast-forwarded a little here. Now we’re back on track.
I had my own private 60s prom in my bedroom! Paul Harkey did his own little dance in the middle of the stage at the end. I miss Kelly Vaughn’s guitar solo though. I noticed on twitter a while back that he was leaving the band, not sure why.
Ernie just recycled the “guy with the cellphone in a bathroom stall” joke from George Younce. Nice.
10. Sometimes I Wonder
They’ve slowed this down a bit from the studio. I like it. Zak Shumate is doing a little hand percussion. Oh, nice, they’re tacking on a tag of “How Beautiful Heaven Must Be.”
11. Then Came the Morning
12. Only Here For a Little While
Back now at 8:35, and Doug is out singing solo. Pre-recorded BGVs. (So far anyway.)
13. Our Debts Will Be Paid
Now this is kind of an oldie! Devin just held the long note. Paul Harkey doing great on bass. This is fun.
This provided a nice segue into…
14. Life Will Be Sweeter
Ernie just said they’ve had a lot of requests for this song, and he’s going to do it even though it wasn’t on the program, leaving the consequences to the Lord… and Wesley. And the song is…
15. Can’t Help Falling in Love
Ernie mopped his brow with his hankie and threw it at somebody! Too funny.
16. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
Ernie announced that they were going to do a Christmas carol Wayne had arranged for five parts called “Wonderful Grace of Jesus.” Wayne gently “set him straight.” Zak is adding some well-placed drum beats for emphasis.
Now they are rocking the house with…
17. Any Other Man
This is the first time I’ve seen a high quality video performance of this song. I really enjoyed watching them in action up close, getting into this one.
18. You Are Welcome Here
Sorry for the delay in posting the rest. I took a break. My take on the rest of the concert as recorded by my RealDownloader will hopefully follow soon… if I can get my RealDownloader to work…
Update: Got it to work. Herewith, the rest of the concert… turns out it was just one more song.
19. Oh What a Savior
This was put into a medley with “Nothing But the Blood.” The audience sang along, but Doug and Devin also did some step-outs on the hymn. I enjoyed Wayne’s extra piano licks!
Here Ernie mentioned Tracy Stuffle and asked that the audience would keep him and his family in prayer. After closing in prayer, they left with another encore of “Glory to God in the Highest.”
[Note: I know, I forgot to put up a humor clip this morning. See, my brain was on hold yesterday, so I scheduled this post instead without thinking. Sorry about that!]
I had the opportunity to see Greater Vision in concert for the first time a couple weeks ago. It was wonderful to meet all the guys and chat in between the songs. I made several purchases, including the Lari Goss Tribute DVD (which I’ll review if nobody else does, because it’s awesome), and their Hymns of the Ages album with Chris’s vocals. I also brought home some GV Christmas music in anticipation of December. No, in case you’re wondering, I haven’t started listening to it yet—not one of those day-after-Thanksgiving types when it comes to Christmas music, but probably somewhere around the beginning of next month I’ll start breaking it out. Only thing is I need to take other stuff off my ipod to make room, because I just have a lowly 7.5 gig affair. Anyway, enough rambling about my ipod. Here are some highlights from the concert, plus a slideshow. Even though we weren’t allowed to use flash, my seat was so fantastic I got some nice shots anyway. Continue reading
The Booth Brothers came to the Gospel Barn in Hillsdale, Michigan earlier this month, and I got to go and enjoy them. It was a great experience and a great concert with a mix of old favorites and material from their new Gaither project. Here are some of the highlights off the top of my head, in no particular order: Continue reading
Ha! You thought I’d never do it! Well, HERE. I apologize for the atrocious amount of time it took me to put this together. I have no idea why it took me so long. Mea culpa.
This really was a good concert experience, even though the concert took a while to get started for some reason. However, it was entertaining to hear Mr. Riegsecker himself drone on. Mom and I were cracking each other up making broken record gestures. But in a sense he was very endearing—like a beloved character from a novel. There aren’t many characters of his type anymore.
I got to mingle with the Signature Sound guys beforehand, and amazingly all of them remembered me. I especially enjoyed touching base with Ernie again. He told me that he was changing his philosophy of live song selection a little bit after having experienced a Franklin Graham revival where numerous people made first professions of faith. He said it really had an impact on him, and if I understood him correctly, he was saying that he wanted to be a little more missional in how he ordered the songs. I really wish I could have gone a little deeper with him on this because it sounded interesting. He also gave me a free review copy of their new DVD, which was super-nice of him. (Speaking of, I haven’t reviewed it yet, so that’s on my to-do list.) Later I bought their new T-shirt partly as a gesture of appreciation for his generosity (but also because it’s just a really cool shirt!)
Seating was another somewhat problematic issue (as you can tell from the fuzzy slideshow). It was sub-optimal for the entire first half. We actually got to move forward a whole section or so once it became clear that there were empty seats closer to the front. However, I still had trouble craning my neck around the people in front of me. But at least we escaped from the elderly gentleman who was tapping his foot directly behind my seat (originally my mom’s seat, but I switched with her in a burst of generosity which I quickly regretted). It was like Chinese water torture. So that was good. And I found a better seat for the second half, and that made a huge difference in my enjoyment of the concert. I was able to relax and really get into the music. Unfortunately, the first half was significantly longer than the second, so that meant I was rather tense for the majority of the concert. But I got the whole thing recorded so I was able to go back and pick out highlights.
The Collingsworth Family came out first, as they did in 2010 when I caught this same double-billing. They didn’t do quite as much new material as I had expected, but they hit a lot of favorites. Highlights of their set for me:
*“Holy, Holy, Holy” – Their acapella sound keeps getting deeper and fuller. This performance was pitch-perfect.
* “I Know” – This song never gets old live, and every year it seems like some new national or global catastrophe happens for which it becomes relevant all over again. (Ah well, what do you expect with an Obama presidency…)
* Fiddles Segment — I always love to hear what the Collingsworth girls have cooked up on the fiddles. They played a country/bluegrass-sounding “Power In the Blood,” and I loved the way one of them plucked her fiddle to make it sound like a banjo. It took a little while for the staid Shipshewana audience to get their hands together, but they finally got going around the back half of the song and were in full swing by the encore. Then they played “The Prayer,” which I don’t think I’ve ever seen them do before. They showed great classical technique, and things got really dramatic in the part where the song switches to Italian (or whatever other language it is). I must say I prefer this instrumental version, without the distraction of the song’s canned, generic inspo lyrics. The melody alone is very beautiful.
*Kim Collingsworth’s Emceeing — Kim is always a really refreshing, genuine presence on stage. We know her as a power-house piano player, but her talent is complemented by a sweet, winsome spirit that shines forth whenever she opens her mouth. Not only is she sweet, she’s funny! She shared her theory on why women speak 50,000 words a day and men speak 25,000. One day she had a flash of inspiration, turned to Phil and said “I know why… because I have to repeat everything I say to you!” (This provoked some “Amens” from the audience.) Of course, the punch-line: “And you know what he said? He said, ‘Huh?’”
It’s always a good moment when she shares about Phil’s brain surgery as well. It’s very moving to hear her talk about being forced to a point where she had to be completely dependent on God’s grace to uphold her. Anybody who’s suffering from something can really be encouraged to hear what she has to say, even if their story is completely different, because she makes her point so universal.
*“I Want Jesus More Than Anything” – Kim led into this song after talking about Phil’s surgery. It’s one thing to hear this song on a recording, it’s another to watch the huge sound they create with just a few members of the family for most of the song before bringing in everybody on the dramatic conclusion.
*“How Great Thou Art” – I know, I know, Kim pulls this out every time, but it’s always huge, and it’s always a highlight. It brought the house down to close their first set.
Next EHSS came out, and they gave a great concert. However, I was a bit concerned to hear that Ian’s voice wasn’t as smooth and velvety as I remembered from the Grand Rapids concert where I first saw him in 2011. It seemed a little choppier and harsher this time. I hope this isn’t the beginning of a trend. Previously I would have placed him on a par with Tim Duncan. Now I’d have to say I prefer Tim. Ian still did a great job though, and I know he is capable of that fruity sound, it’s just that this particular night he didn’t seem to use it as much. Highlights of EHSS’s first set were…
*“Since Jesus Passed By” – Interestingly, they chose to open with this calm number. I like their new arrangement. They added some great extra dynamic touches. Unfortunately, I was distracted while they sang this one, because I was trying to sit on my tote bag to get a marginally better view, which resulted in dropping and breaking a CD case, which led to some whispered back-and-forth with Mom, and… yeah, let’s just say I was glad I was able to re-visit the recording and enjoy it properly.
*“Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” — Their cheeky, old-school arrangement works even better live than in the studio. It was fun to watch Wayne accompany them by himself on piano. The “mouth instruments” also elicited some laughter and applause.
*“Get Away Jordan” – I can remember a time when I was luke-warm to this arrangement. Now I look forward to seeing them perform it whenever I see them in concert. It tears up the stage.
*“Sometimes I Wonder” – This was my favorite song off the new project, and I hope it becomes a new concert staple. I like the fact that the stripped-down arrangement make it easy and tasteful to perform with a completely live band. And the emotion of the lyric makes a moving moment. Their harmonies were just as lush as they are in the studio. Doug was crying, as always.
*“We Shall See Jesus” – They led right into this immediately after “Sometimes I Wonder.” Great sequencing! There was applause when Devin sang the first few lines. It was in Shipshewana that they debuted it live with Devin in 2010, and I still have that recording. Like then, they let Devin carry it all the way through. I was so glad to see them do this, because I think the usage of “Glen video” worked only in the immediate aftermath of the Cats’ Tribute release. It’s time now to move on and let Devin leave his unique stamp on it. I think his vocal technique has improved in the last two years, and this performance was great.
*“Walk With Me” – I loved this performance, but I especially liked Ernie’s sharing beforehand. He was visibly emotional as he shared from his heart about his struggles with anxiety and trusting God. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him get this choked up on stage before. It was very personal and completely sincere, and it lent added feeling to his performance of this song. Let me quote verbatim:
When you get up in the morning… let me re-phrase that, when I get up in the morning, I got a decision to make. And lately it’s been harder than any decision I’ve ever had to make. And that decision is, I’m gonna take God at His word, and I’m gonna really try to live it today and be at peace… or I’m gonna let any circumstance come my way today—and they’re gonna come no matter what I do—and I’m gonna let it rob me of my joy, rob me of my peace, I’m gonna walk around in tension and turmoil. God did not call us to be victims. He called us to be victors through Him. And that only comes though walking with Jesus. And I found out He ain’t going anywhere. Worry took me down a path where Jesus could not be heard or found. And praise, praise God, He was just a prayer away.
They did something they’ve done before, which was sing an encore without microphones. We had trouble hearing at first, but Ernie’s voice carried surprisingly far without any amplification. Afterwards he led us in a chorus of “In the Garden.”
*“Love Carried the Cross” — Ernie set this up by talking about how there are so many great “cross” songs out there that it could almost make a writer intimidated to write yet another one. But he didn’t let that stop him from making his own contribution along with Joel Lindsay and Wayne Haun. I don’t think we can ever have too many cross songs, so I’m glad he did. This was a highlight of the night, and it lent itself surprisingly effectively to crowd singalong for an encore.
At intermission I recorded my duet with Doug of “In the Garden” (inspired by Ernie’s choosing it for a “Walk With Me” encore). I also chatted some with the artists, as did some of my family separately. Mom told Ernie that he needs to revive “I Want to See Jesus,” and he instructed her to go tell Wayne. Wayne, in his usual reserved fashion, simply nodded professionally and said, “Yes, I like that song. I like that song a lot.” I told Ian that he needs to cover “My Mind Forgets a Million Things,” and he said, “We’ve thought about it…” I then mischievously said, “Well stop thinking about it and DO IT!” He seemed shocked and said, “Oh! Well okay then!” We shall see if it accomplishes anything.
It was also great to chat with the Collingsworth Family. I learned a little more about how the older girls combine their married lives with life on the road (their husbands travel with and work for the family), and talked with Phil Jr. about who some of his favorite singers are. I asked him to give me a top five, and he named Michael Buble, David Phelps, Wes Hampton and Gary Levox, then had a hard time settling on a fifth. I suggested Doug Anderson, and he said, “Sure! Why not?” His girlfriend was with him that night. Marriage number three may be in the works.
By this time it was around 10:00. I would have liked to hear a few more songs in the second half, but it was so late that I can fully understand why they didn’t do more. The Collingsworth family picked three light numbers: a trumpet medley, “Nothing’s Worrying Me” and “Just Another Rainy Day.” I particularly enjoyed watching Brooklyn strut her stuff on the bluesy “Nothing’s Worrying Me.” However, I thought it was a shame that they didn’t get around to singing any numbers like “I Found it All” or “Resurrection Morn.” “Resurrection Morn” in particular would have been a great way to finish off their set. But perhaps they felt they couldn’t fit it in.
I loved all three of Signature Sound’s 2nd half selections: “This Ole House” was the first time I’d heard Ian sing the classic, and I especially enjoyed hearing him ham it up on the narration. Secondly, believe it or not I actually got into “Everytime,” the song I had previously been dreading! But I think it was the fun of watching the live band go at it on stage, plus the energy. I was clapping and singing along in no time flat. What had been an “always skip” on the CD for me transformed into a great concert moment. And finally, I got to hear Ernie sing his signature song “Oh What a Savior” in full voice. The first time I saw them he left it off the program, and then the second time he was still recovering from a nasty respiratory illness and wasn’t quite himself, involving the crowd more. This time he really belted it out, and he even sang some of the extra high frills that he did more of when he was younger. A great, great performance. I can die now.
Finally, the whole gang came on to sing “Amen.” I like it that they try to assign the “See him in the garden” verse to somebody different each time. I saw them give it to Phil Jr. in 2010. This time Wayne got it and did great. Then Ernie blew the roof off for the climax. This always works to finish off their concerts.
Afterwards I hung around a little bit more, and I got to meet Doug Anderson’s sweet wife and kids. I recognized her and touched her on the shoulder just as somebody else began to strike up a conversation with her, at which point I withdrew and started walking away. She was so sweet, she followed and caught up with me after finishing her conversation. I just wanted to tell her how much we all love and appreciate her husband, and I informed the kiddos that Daddy is super cool, as if they didn’t already know.
So there you have it. Once again, I apologize for putting this off so long. I hope you enjoyed it anyway. As always, thanks for reading! Here’s a full set list:
2. Goodbye World Goodbye (piano instrumental)
3. “Holy, Holy, Holy”
4. Tell the Mountain
5. How Great Thou Art
6. Fear Not Tomorrow
7. I Know
8. Power in the Blood (fiddle instrumental)
9. The Prayer (fiddle instrumental)
10. I Want Jesus More Than Anything
11. How Great Thou Art (piano instrumental)
1. Since Jesus Passed By
2. Glory to God In the Highest
3. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
4. Reason Enough
5. Movin’ Up to Gloryland
6. I Believe
7. Swinging On the Golden Gate
8. Get Away Jordan
9. Sometimes I Wonder
10. We Shall See Jesus
11. Walk With Me
12. Love Carried the Cross
1. Trumpet Medley
2. Nothing’s Worrying Me
3. Just Another Rainy Day
1. This Ole House
3. Oh What A Savior
I saw the Ball Brothers in concert the other night—sort of. Cornerstone Church in Reedsburg, Wisconsin did a live-streaming event, and even though the video quality was just average, audio was great and I thoroughly enjoyed tuning in. I took notes and decided to publish a full review. So here’s a full set list with comments. They were drawn up quickly, so forgive any tpyos and msiprints. Asterisks denote highlights:
1. Happy Am I — Cute, easy-listening ice-breaker.
2. I Wouldn’t Miss Heaven For the World — This is an “oldie” for Ball Brothers fans. Andy Tharp and Chad McCloskey both got step-outs. I’m impressed with Tharp’s full tone. Chad’s voice is lighter but very easy to listen to. Then Daniel Ball came in, and I remembered what a good singer he is. All the guys impressed on the multiple key changes.
3. Glory to God In the Highest — I believe they use the Signature Sound track for their cover of this favorite. It’s not really the same without an actual bass, but they do an enjoyable rendition.
Daniel did member intros and included an update on Stephen, who is doing well with the help of hearing aids and has become an assistant pastor. In his intro for Stephen’s replacement, Andy, Daniel said they had been looking for somebody who could get along with siblings, and since Stephen [sorry, I meant Andy--told you I did this fast!] comes from a family with 12 children, he was a perfect fit! Then Daniel said that Josh was planning to move out near Stephen, and joked that together they were going to start a rival quartet called The Ball Brothers. He then introduced Cody and said he was dating their sister, but when he came to 22-year-old Chad he said the lad was still not spoken for. So, in an almost George Younce-esque moment, Daniel called for applications from any unmarried ladies ages 18 to mid-80s who might be interested in Chad.
4. He’s Got the Whole Thing In His Hands — I call this “dinner theater” music. Super silky smooth jazz, a bit sleepy, but ear-tickling.
*5. Every Day, Every Hour — Seamless transition between this song and the last. I’ll say here and now that NOBODY can touch the Cathedrals’ version, but the Brothers handle it with respect and class. It definitely fits their style. I always have trouble telling whether they use stacks doing this live, but it almost sounded like a different “brother” really was filling in on tenor while Andrew ad-libbed toward the end.
6. Basics of Life — A 4Him chestnut. Less punchy and soulful than the original, but it’s a very logical choice for them. I’m actually singing along as I type.
7. Great Is Thy Faithfulness [Instrumental] — This was a Cody McVey piano solo.
8. Give Me a Glimpse of Your Glory
More talking, with a few “short” jokes at Chad’s expense. Then…
*9. Beulah Land — Really showcases the flexibility of Chad’s voice, and this is also a really nice piano-only moment for the group.
*10. I’ve Been Redeemed — This has a country/bluegrass flair in the vein of the Perrys’ “Blue Skies Coming.” Daniel asked before the song “How many of you like a little country feel to your gospel? Okay, three people. This is for you.” Daniel just did a great step-out by the way. Andrew’s tenor also rang out clear in this one.
11. My Love — This was preceded by a long and hilarious segment where Daniel talked about their grandmother, and how she raised them on Gaither videos. “Our Grandma forced us to watch Gaither videos as children. I don’t know if that’s a crime, but that’s what she did.” Then when they began singing, she raised them to sing “technically” (whatever that means, couldn’t get a really clear impression from Daniel’s description). Then they talked about how she recently got Facebook (Priceless comment: “If you don’t have Facebook, you are probably missing this generation’s greatest waste of time!… You can spy on people and gossip… it’s great”) and supposedly was complaining about their style. I don’t know if this is true or not, but it made a great story. So Daniel is on the phone with Grandma trying to calm her down and saying “We do all different styles… country, contemporary, black gospel…” whereupon she said, “But you don’t sing technically, in a classical style like I taught you.” Daniel said he bet they could, and she demurred. So they recorded this quirky song with some “classical” riffs and frills to prove Grandma wrong. It’s really a novelty piece, more “Bohemian Rhapsody” than Bach, so assuming the story is true, I’m not sure how well it went over with Grandma. But it is funny.
*12. Mercy Said No — Another “oldie.” I’ve always preferred this version to the original. Andrew seemed to struggle a little on his high notes tonight, but finished well. I can’t help wondering if it might work a little better for him just lowered a half or whole step.
Here there was a product pitch and intermission. Daniel encouraged folks to buy Cody’s new instrumental project, because all the money will go directly to Cody. People cheered, then Daniel said he was saving up for a new X-Box, whereupon a little boy offered a standing-O in the front row. But then in seriousness, Daniel said the REAL reason Cody is saving up is that he’s marrying the Ball Brothers’ sister and wants to buy an engagement ring. “So if you want to help Cody marry our sister… buy his CD!”
During intermission, the Brothers sent out a special greeting to their online viewers, encouraging us to call everyone we know so we could reach their goal of 4000 people and crash the server.
*13. There is a Mountain — I think this is one of the Balls’ best covers. They took a GVB song and truly made it their own. The result sounds like a Go Fish effort.
14. I’m Already Living Forever — I think Phillips Craig & Dean’s “This is The Life” is a better song along similar lines, but this one is catchy too.
15. The Peace of God — This mellow jazz piece allows the group’s tight blend to shine. They really are strongest when all four voices come together.
16. Healer of My Heart – Both the Ball Brothers and the Sisters have recorded this comforting contemporary ballad.
*17. Ride That Glory Train — They made this a great little moment for Chad to “learn” his bass part. Daniel instructed him on what notes to hit, and I was struck by Chad’s versatility. He has such a light voice when he does his step-outs, yet he was technically hired to sing low notes! This song is on their upcoming CD, and I like the little twists they put on the arrangement. In my mind the Cathedrals’ arrangement will always be the gold standard, if only for Roger Bennett’s inimitable piano improv, but I enjoy this version too. I noticed that Cody switched to a jazz organ (or something funky/electric-sounding anyway) on his keyboard part-way through, which was a cute touch.
*18. Walking In Jerusalem — This piece shows the Balls stretching their legs with some bluegrass (which they explained helps them fit in better where they come from in Chickamauga). It was one of the few times we got to hear a step-out from Andy Tharpe.
*19. It’s About the Cross – Here Daniel wrapped up, as he always does, by sharing a heart-warming and funny story about his 5-year-old son Logan. Some of you have probably heard parts of it before, but I hadn’t heard the lead-up when Logan was trying to decide what to be when he grew up in the fifteen minutes before bed-time on Career Day. He was torn between being a Ninja (Daniel was hilarious about this) or a gospel singer (because he’d decided he wanted to be like Dad and not have to work). Then Logan asked, “If you had to go out there and sing just one song, what would it be?” Daniel brushed it aside (“Logan we’re ALWAYS able to sing more than one song…”) but Logan was very serious and said, “But just imagine you couldn’t… it would be pretty important what song you chose wouldn’t it?” And like the sweet little kid with great taste that he obviously is, Logan said he thinks this song “sums up your whole ministry, everything you sing about, in one song.”
I agree. And this was a terrific performance. It occurred to me that sometime I should ask Daniel where they found the second verse. The Go Fish original first appeared on a Christmas album, and the 2nd verse was specifically Christmas-themed. The Balls’ version has more generic redemption/salvation lyrics. It works really well for them. If I can be really nit-picky for a moment, there’s just one grammatical issue I’ve been meaning to point out: Listen closely to the final chorus in the Go Fish version and notice the subtle change from “It’s about how…” to “It’s about…” when they sing “It’s about every drop of blood that flowed from him when it should have been me.” The Ball Brothers simply forgot that “It’s about how” no longer makes sense with the alternate ending, so they sing “It’s about how every drop of blood…” Might want to change that.
I greatly enjoyed this concert and would definitely recommend the show. The pastor said that one of his kids saw the Brothers practicing before the concert and asked if they were really singing or just lip-syncing. Their blend is that smooth and tight. And it’s especially impressive now that only half of the group is related. If anything, the blend is better than ever. Andy and Chad have both proven to be excellent choices.
In a genre with quite a few sound-a-like groups, these guys are unique. They offer something different from your typical quartet. It gives them a wide appeal. Also, though Daniel is prone to wander a bit in between songs, their comedy is fresh and different from the norm. Coming away from this concert, I really only have a couple words of wisdom for them:
1. Feature Andy Tharpe more frequently. I don’t think he ever got a full feature to himself, and he had very few step-outs. Maybe this makes sense given that he’s one of the new guys, but I’d love to hear more of what he could do.
2. Daniel, learn how to pronounce “Wisconsin.” It’s WIS-consin, not WES-consin.
On December 9th, I attended my first Homecoming. It was a memorable experience. Sadly, I was unable to take that many good photos of the actual stage, so I reverted to taking pictures of the screen, which yielded better results. There are a few “stage shots” in here (I particularly liked one or two of David Phelps, probably because of the high contrast lighting they did for his numbers), but most turned out blurry. I ended up scrapping half the photos I took, and of the ones I kept I didn’t have time to touch any up in Lightroom. So the shots in this slideshow are very rough. But I think they capture the spirit of the evening pretty well. And like I said, I owe most of them to the guys with the video cams.
As usual, Kevin Williams came out before the “concert concert” to play guitar—a couple carols from his new CD. Then Bill came up, and there was some comedy. He announced he was running for President and threw out ideas for his cabinet, including Gordon Mote for Secretary of Transportation.
Then he introduced Buddy Greene, and after some banter, Buddy said, “I am the resident folk singer of this outfit, but when I get up here I feel like a rock star.” He kicked things off on the guitar with the country “Christmas Time’s A’Comin,” from his Christmas project Not Just Any Night (which is fantastic by the way—thanks Buddy for the free copy!) Becky and Sonya Isaacs joined him, and they had a great sound together. He performed it slower live than it is on the album, but it worked perfectly. After some dexterous guitar work, Buddy pulled out the harmonica and did some jamming with Gordon Mote on keys and Kevin on electric. It was an awesome way to kick off the night.
Then Buddy had the Martins come up to help everyone “get Pentecostal” on the next song (“God is With Us”), but not before eliciting some appropriately loud cheers of excitement for Christmas from the crowd. Buddy did a great black gospel impression including some great falsetto and growling. But I could tell he was hurting for some Brooklyn Tab backup, or at least Larnelle Harris. “And a hallelujah from all you white people out there…?”
Next, Charlotte Ritchie came on stage and led us in “Beautiful Star of Bethlehem.” I’d never heard the song before and immediately loved the way she sang it. What a beautiful, sweet voice she has. I could listen to it all day.
More comedy, including the obligatory shots of Rory Rigdon staring into space. Kevin: “You’re laughing, but that’s Bill’s campaign manager!”
Next up, the Martins, who I believe may have been the highlight of the night. At any rate, they seemed to leave the strongest impression with my dad, who doesn’t customarily listen to southern gospel. They kicked it off with “Go Tell,” then launched right into their acclaimed acapella arrangement of “The Doxology,” which always brings the house down. As comparatively low quality as my audio recording of the event was, playing it back still gives me goosebumps. Definitely a candidate for The Moment of the concert. From here they segued into one of their best songs, “The Promise.” I am always struck by how potent and well-written the lyrics for this song are.
More comedy, then Gordon Mote, whom you can’t not love. Like everyone else, he started with an up-tempo number, “Something to Shout About.” His piano chops were on full display. After this, he told a few funny stories about the kinds of things fans ask him that I’m actually not certain were made up. One was about a man in Toronto who came up and asked Gordon for directions. “So I pointed!” said Gordon. And my favorite was the one about the woman who came to Gordon’s table, stood there without saying anything and finally walked over to the guy working it to ask, “Does he shake hands?” (All of these voices were delivered impeccably by Gordon of course.) In reply, the table guy said with a twinkle, “I don’t know. Give him a treat and let’s see what happens!” Gordon played his arrangement of “Through it All” to close out his set. Honestly, I have never really liked this song, but Gordon brought it to life in a really compelling way with a heavy black gospel swing. The audience sang along.
Next came the Booth Brothers, who delivered a predictably flawless set: “I See Grace,” “He Saw It All” (done with a live band), “Trading This Old Cross For a Crown,” then “In Christ Alone.” I didn’t get to see them do that one at the concert in the fall, so this was a pleasant surprise. (Though I guess it wasn’t a surprise, since most of the artists were singing some material from the new Gaither Homecomings.)
Break for a product pitch. Bill announced the CDs, and Rory was shown holding them up. It was humorous when he would get “mixed up.” The best moment was when Bill was pitching something else and Mark Lowry sneaked up behind Rory to wave his new solo project in everyone’s face. “I can’t believe he did that! Shameless self-promotion!” cried Kevin indignantly, proceeding to display his two new projects (thanks for the free copies Kevin!)
Bluegrass time with the Isaacs. A highlight of their set was when they showed Aedan Isaacs on the screen, chewing on something or other. Bill said, “There’s nothing in that honey. But go for it, go for it.” Then, “Enjoy that. One of these days, you’ll have to get a job.” The baby’s reaction was so perfectly timed that my dad was literally trying to argue that the footage had been shot beforehand and spliced in. I don’t know if the rest of us quite convinced him that baby Aedan really was there, sitting on Charlotte Ritchie’s lap and reacting in real time. They sang “It’s Christmastime Again,” “Winter Wonderland,” “Why Can’t We,” and “I Will Praise Him.” I always love to hear them sing that hymn acapella. Because it’s not as familiar to me as some other hymns, it strikes me fresh every time.
Then Bill introduced Gene McDonald singing “Lonesome Road.” He’s excellent! I’m not sure why people have said he’s overrated, but he has the complete package—smooth as silk and killer lows. It’s just a matter of time before he becomes the Gaither Vocal Band’s official bass singer.
Then, the moment everyone was probably waiting for… the Gaither Vocal Baaaaand! They started with a great choice: “Hide Thou Me,” for which Bill has taken to accompanying them on the piano. David was himself. Next they pulled out an unexpected tune from the Wes/Guy/Marsh lineup, “I Catch ‘Em, God Cleans ‘Em.” Mark Lowry sang the step-outs. It wasn’t the same without Guy but still fun.
Here there was some comedy with Bill and Mark where Mark asked the different denominations in the audience to identify themselves. “Church of Christ! You get to hear a PIANO. It’s almost like SINNING, isn’t it? [evil cackle]” My favorite moment was when Mark told the Catholics, “Oh, God bless you. Thank you for coming to hear Baptist Protestants sing. Tell Mary I said hey. We’re not allowed to talk to her. Tell her I said thanks for that song though, I appreciate it.”
Next was “My Journey to the Sky,” then “Greatly Blessed, Highly Favored.” Wes Hampton was in great form. Then… the moment I’d been secretly dreading… David Phelps, “Nessun Dorma.” Very impressive, of course, but still too frilly… that scooping thing he does on the word “splendera” still drives me batty. He had a nice new haircut though—Shirley Temple isn’t quite so envious anymore. And he certainly landed in the center of each note, that is, when he wasn’t deliberately dancing around it. I think in all fairness he may actually have been a little less “pop” than usual that night, a bit more true classical.
Then they gave Wes his moment with “He is Here.” Putting him and Phelps back to back was obviously intentional, but for me, it served as a reminder of why I’ve always preferred Wes to David. Even though Phelps is more talented, Wes appears to put more of his heart into what he sings. There’s such a feeling of authenticity about Wes that’s just not as obviously apparent when David sings. Though by that I certainly don’t mean to imply that David is a cold fish or Wes has no talent. So no letters, please!
Then it was time for Mark to sing “Mary, Did You Know?” Powerful moment, as always. I was expecting a standing ovation, but it was a relatively quiet crowd that night, so no standing-O for Mark, or even Phelps! (Shock.) The live band provided a great touch.
Michael English sang “Please Forgive Me,” and then David launched into “He’s Alive.” It was an appropriately exciting finale for the first half.
Gordon Mote played a piano instrumental to start the second half. Meanwhile, Dad fixed Mom’s lighter. Then Bill led the audience in “Joy to the World.” Next was “Come and See What’s Happening” (Gordon Mote sang the solo with some assorted female backup singers—perhaps Charlotte Ritchie and the Isaacs?) Bill played the Christmas Homecoming video along with this song and did so again with several others throughout the night.
Next was the Martins’ “Rejoice With Exceeding Great Joy.” It was the first time our family had heard this song, and it was a HUGE hit. We’ve been walking around the house singing it ever since. Mom asked a picky musical friend whether it sounded Jewish, and he said it was more just white jazz. The audience had fun blinking their lighters back and forth in time to make starlight (under Bill’s instruction of course). A local choir was singing by the stage, but they were virtually hidden in the shadows.
Bill and Buddy Greene had some harmonica fun at this point. Buddy showed off his mad skillz with a little stylistic sampler (Mark Lowry had a rather loud “stomach growl” during the prairie snippet and said “That’s what Michigan Mexican food will do to you!”) and then the famous Classical Medley. Then he sang “Little Drummer Boy” and forgot some of the words on the first verse. He stopped, looked dazed and said, “Oops, what happened?” “You forgot the words!” Mark offered helpfully. That was priceless, and I’m confident it was unplanned, partly because he also stumbled a little on later verses.
Then Mark Lowry did his recitation “Piper the Mouse” with some whimsical piano accompaniment from Gordon Mote, eliciting many “awwwwwws.” After this, Bill led the audience in “White Christmas.” Ronnie Booth sang a solo, and his voice was a perfect fit for the song. Then Bill played a video clip of Jake Hess singing a solo.
Then it was the Gaither Vocal Band’s turn to come back. They sang “Glorious Impossible,” originally on Give it Away but fitting perfectly with the Christmas spirit. It was written by my friend Wendy Wills, who also co-wrote the recent hit single “Jesus is Holding My Hand” with Lyn Rowell.
The Isaacs then did an acapella rendition of “Away in a Manger.” Afterwards Bill played a clip of Gloria Gaither doing a monologue from a Christmas homecoming. It set up the GVB’s next song, “Reaching.” They did this with just piano accompaniment. It worked brilliantly. Afterwards, Buddy’s harmonica led the audience on “Silent Night.” And FINALLY, David Phelps sang “O Holy Night,” which I had been hoping he would do all evening. He started in complete darkness, but I think it was the first key change when they switched to a pure white spotlight on him. Then after he hit the high note and everyone joined in, the whole stage lit up. It was pretty electrifying. As I’ve said before, I genuinely enjoy what he does with this song, even though he still can’t resist just a few “tweaks.” I think you have to see David Phelps live to really appreciate his talent. Nothing beats being in the same auditorium as he is when he unleashes “it.” I was astonished that it didn’t get a standing ovation.
So there you have it! My first Homecoming. I’ve already discussed my between- and after-concert chats with various artists like Buddy Greene, Gordon Mote, and Kevin Williams. Other members of my family also met artists like the Martins. Everyone we met was wonderfully kind and gracious. If “them Gaithers” are ever in your area, and for some reason you’ve never seen them, you should make an effort to do so. The variety of music they offer is incredible. Anyone is sure to find something he will like. That’s the beauty of a Homecoming. Certainly it’s a must for any southern gospel fan to experience, but even if that isn’t necessarily your bag, a Homecoming concert will incorporate elements of other genres like pop, folk, bluegrass and classical as well. So whether you have a passionate love for southern gospel or not, the bottom line is that Bill Gaither has a knack for picking good music.
And with that, I leave my readers for the Christmas weekend. I hope to be back some time next week. Until then, Merry Christmas to all!
Last Saturday, I had the amazing opportunity to see Keith & Kristyn Getty live in concert in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The auditorium held as many people as it could seat, which is approximately 2000 people.
It was a huge concert. Keith and Kristyn were joined by a mixed Irish/American band, including Dave Cleveland and Fionan de Barra on guitars, Deborah Klemme on fiddle, Jeff Taylor on accordion/mandolin/penny whistle/concertina, and Patrick D’Arcy on Uillean pipes, plus a bass player and drummer whose names I didn’t catch. Dave and Fionan are involved in arranging the Gettys’ music and are considered to be the band directors. (More on the band later. If I don’t mention their awesomeness on every single song, it’s because they were so awesome on every song that I just sort of got used to it and took it for granted. So, yeah, they were awesome.) A mass choir backed them up comprising singers from the choirs of two local churches.
I brought a camera which ran out of battery power partway through and had to be replenished (we figured out what the problem was—continuous image stabilization, huge battery hog). I recently got Lightroom 3 as a Christmas present and was able to improve some of the less-than-optimal shots I got from my less-than-optimal seat in the balcony. My best shots were taken during the after-concert I mentioned earlier this week when three of the musicians came out to the reception room for an informal jam. I was right there up close to them with perfect lighting. But I managed to get some good concert shots too. Enjoy the images and scroll down for the review. Also, there’s a special surprise at the very end of this post!
O Come Redeemer Of the Earth/God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen: The prelude was slow and expectant, a song that I think may be new from the Gettys. From there they moved into a rousing version of “God Rest Ye Merry.” Like many of the carols on their new Christmas album (which you should buy immediately), it’s combined with a traditional Irish reel. This one features the Star of Munster. It set a vigorous, energetic tone for the evening.
What Child Is This: This is an exciting arrangement. Ordinarily, this carol gets the quiet, contemplative treatment, but this arrangement moves along and has a lot of punch to it.
Good Christian Men Rejoice: The Gettys turned this not-quite-so-well-known carol into a congregational sing-along. It worked splendidly. We were treated to some glorious penny whistling from Jeff Taylor as the audience clapped and worshiped. I loved the way they took the line “Christ was born today, Christ was born today,” and instead of drawing out the first “today” for two syllables, they sang “Christ was born today, OH! Christ was born today!” Keith was at the piano throughout the concert, but for audience singalongs, he was always turning to lead them in clapping, sometimes even jumping up from the piano. The enthusiasm with which the Gettys tackle their music is infectious.
Here there was a break between songs as Keith talked about being in Kalamazoo for the first time and took a few jabs at Dutch people. (Southwest Michigan is full of Van-this-er-mullens and Hoekstras and Kooistras and what-not.) He said he was looking forward to having their first ever Dutch-Irish Christmas with us. He generated a good response when he said that even though he and Kristyn have lived in Ohio for about six years, they never supported Ohio state (perhaps that was his way of trying to smooth things over after all those Dutch jokes!)
Then Kristyn took the microphone and said that she became a mother back in March, to a little girl named Eliza Joy who now travels with them. The fiddle player also has a little boy who travels with her, and Kristyn expressed her hope that both children were fast asleep in the bus.
Magnificat: From there Kristyn introduced their new musical setting for the “Magnificat,” which they wrote several years ago when they were still hoping for a child. She talked about how the beauty of Mary’s song is that she looks beyond her own personal joy to God’s plan for mankind in sending the Messiah. Kristyn understandably referred to it as “God’s redemptive plan,” though it is debatable whether Mary really understood Christ’s true purpose in coming to earth at the time. (But that deserves a post of its own!) Keith left the piano to play guitar. I love the melody they wrote. It’s got a stately, almost medieval dignity.
How Suddenly A Baby Cries: This is a new Christmas lyric written to the traditional folk tune “Star of the County Down,” which most people know as the tune for “I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say.” It has always been one of my favorite melodies. The Gettys’ lyrics are a sweeping meditation on the mystery of Christ’s birth and salvation. The first couple of verses are soft and pregnant with anticipation, but then it suddenly picks up and turns into a reel. I lost count of how many verses there are, but it’s a very impressive piece.
Keith said that County Down was one of C. S. Lewis’s favorite places in North Ireland (mentioning it when asked what he thought heaven would be like). So when they were writing a new reel to tack onto their arrangement of the tune, they christened it the Narnian Reel in his memory.
Joy Has Dawned: Keith said that every hymn-writer wants to write a Christmas carol, and this is their attempt at one. After talking a little about the history of carols, he said that joy seems to be a major theme of Christmas wherever you go. Whatever people’s view of the season, they want to get as much enjoyment as they can out of it. Keith quoted a writer who said that the world’s attempt to find that kind of materialistic joy is like “grabbing a raindrop to find the ocean,” because true joy isn’t found within. True joy came to us in the form of Christ’s incarnation.
This is one of my favorite songs on the new album. (It’s also been recorded by a couple other artists, but this arrangement is so much better it’s not even funny.) The tune sticks in your head and is easy to remember, plus you want to remember it. Also, the lyrics are some of the best I think I’ve ever heard from them. They sound most similar to an actual hymn of anything the Getty/Townend team has written. The closing verse is my favorite:
Son of Adam Son of heav’n
Given as a ransom
Reconciling God and man
Christ our mighty Champion!
What a Saviour what a Friend
What a glorious myst’ry
Once a babe in Bethlehem
Now the Lord of hist’ry
For their Christmas album, they chose to blend this carol with “Angels We Have Heard On High.” It works great.
Jesus, Joy of the Highest Heaven: Probably my absolute favorite new song of theirs (it would definitely be “The Star On Top” if I were including it in my new series), this was specifically written as a children’s carol. Keith wrote the melody, and Kristyn wrote the lyrics while she was pregnant. It’s very easily singable, as it was meant to be, and the lyrics are just perfect, obviously not just for children:
Jesus, take away every darkness
Steady my simple footsteps
That I might in your goodness
Live as a child of God
Jeff Taylor played a really sweet accordion on this one.
When Trials Come: This was one of a few non-Christmas songs they did that evening. Kristyn set it up by talking about how the history of Irish music is wrought with pathos because of the various things its people have suffered through the centuries. This song was written in that spirit. It’s always been one of my favorite songs of theirs, because the melody and lyrics come together to create such a potent sense of longing and hope. It starts slowly and poignantly, then builds in intensity to a triumphant finale. Hugely uplifting and drew a great response.
Hark the Herald Angels Sing: Time for another carol/reel combo! This is a definite highlight on the new project. It has a great bluegrass flavor, but it’s a little rocky too. The fiddle player really tore it up on this one, but then again she tore it up on everything. The fiddle was an essential instrument in most of their arrangements.
After intermission, Keith introduced the various band members. For those of you who think southern gospel singers are the only ones who tell corny jokes, guess what… they’re not! I couldn’t follow it all, partly because of Keith’s thick Irish brogue and partly because I was way up in the balcony, but I caught some. I heard Patrick D’Arcy talk a little about his pipes, joking about the fact that you don’t have to blow into them by saying “You can have a cigarette while you’re playing!” (That’s one joke you wouldn’t hear at a southern gospel event. ) Patrick is an Irish studio musician who’s played on film scores. Then when Jeff Taylor was introduced, he provided some perfectly timed comedy, saying “I play the accordion. Please don’t take any Youtube videos, it would break my wife’s heart to know what I did for a living. She thinks I’m a professional wrestler.” Then, when talking about his mandolin’s official name, he said, “This is a bazouki, unless you’re going on a plane ride. Then it’s ‘an octave mandolin, sir.’ ” Guitarist Dave Cleveland was introduced as one of Nashville’s top studio musicians, having played for people like Michael W. Smith and Point of Grace. He also told us that he got to play all the guitars for the movie Courageous, which generated a lot of applause! And Fionan de Barre has played with all the top Irish musicians, including Riverdance in the 90s.
The band then treated us to an instrumental number. Keith set it up by talking about Greengrass parties, where Irish musicians and bluegrass/Americana musicians come together to sit around and play Celtic/bluegrass tunes. I didn’t catch the name of the tune—it sounded like “The Village Reel.” It was a treat to watch all these fine musicians go at it. Dave and Fionan were particularly fun to watch all night because they were physically so into the music, bouncing up and down side by side. Jeff Taylor switched artfully from instrument to instrument. I know he played at least penny whistle and accordion, and I think he may also have played his bazouki (er, I mean “octave mandolin”). I wouldn’t have minded a whole concert just with the band (which we sort of ended up getting later). The audience was clapping along and soaking up every minute of it.
Simple Living: This cheerful meditation on being a cheerful giver comes from a new collection of songs written with Stuart Townend, which looks at how different parts of the gospel apply to daily Christian living. “For this song,” said Keith humorously, “We thought we’d take an uncontroversial topic, so we chose money.” It doesn’t really sound like a hymn, but Keith said that churches had been picking it up anyway (“Because presumably they have building projects and stuff…”) With reference to the widow’s mite, the song insightfully observes, “Not what you give but what you keep/Is what the King is counting.” The audience was invited to sing along.
Still, My Soul Be Still: Here Kristyn talked about life as a new mother, during which she realized that her previous goals of having eight hours of sleep at night in a row and one interrupted hour of quiet time per day were now permanently unattainable. This song is a prayer that God would help us to be still in His presence despite the busy-ness of life in this world. The accompaniment was very tasteful. Keith once again left the piano to play guitar, and other instruments gradually joined in to flesh it out.
Carol of the Bells: This is a fun carol for any arranger to work with. The Gettys combined it with the Young Tom Ennis Jig. There was a lot of great pipe-work on this one, and the choir got to some dramatic “ding dongs.”
Fullness of Grace: A new Christmas song, this has a hushed, minor key feel. Kristyn preceded it by reading John 1. It would have been even better if she had used a translation which said that the light lighteth every man that cometh into the world (instead of “everyone”), but in terms of cadencing and rhythm, it was a pretty good translation that sticks fairly close to the familiar King James.
In Christ Alone: This is a new arrangement. It’s a little slower and mellower than the original. Everyone stood and sang.
Joy to the World: With everyone on their feet, the Gettys segued into this rousing favorite. This was arranged with a brand new reel composed by Keith, named Miss Eliza’s Reel after their baby girl. There was some surprisingly kickin’ electric guitar work on this one. Watch a high quality live performance of it here , filmed in New York the very night before.
An Irish Christmas Blessing: Here my dad suggested that I might want to get down the first floor so that I’d have a chance to meet Keith and the band before the mob stampeded in. So I slipped out in the middle of this song. But I couldn’t resist lingering a moment in the back of the balcony, letting the blessing wash over me. I can’t describe how beautiful this piece is—the music and lyrics combine for a gorgeously peaceful effect.
So may his joy rush over you
Delight in the pow’r he has called you to
May all your steps walk in heaven’s endless light
Beyond this Christmas night
Go Tell It On the Mountain: This was a little extra piece that they pulled out while I was downstairs scouting out the reception room. Fortunately I sneaked back in on the bottom floor to catch the end of it. This arrangement is not on their new project, but it makes a capital closing number. They gave it a rootsy folk/rock flavor with lots of killer guitar and fiddle licks. Here is another high quality video, also from the New York concert.
And now I come to the best part, which is that I took video of two numbers performed after the concert! At first it was just Patrick and Fionan, but Jeff Taylor came and joined them, and that’s when I started taking video. The first one I took was a request from me — “Be Thou My Vision.” Patrick fumbled a little on one note, but c’mon, this was totally impromptu!
The second was some unidentified reel/jig. This was a little longer, so I had time to zoom in on the players some:
They were still playing when I left. I have no idea how long they kept on going, but Keith said they would stay until the last person left, which was incredibly classy considering how many people there were. I got to meet him myself and slipped him a demo CD of some hymns stuff I’ve done, and then Dad got him to sign the new CD to me while I was over watching the band. Kristyn didn’t come out and instead went back to the bus (presumably collapsing in exhaustion with her baby).
This was probably the best produced show I’ve ever seen. But tonight I’m going to see the Homecoming friends, and I hear their band is pretty decent too.
I’m finally getting around to reviewing that Booth Brothers concert from a few weeks back. They came to the Gospel Barn in Hillsdale, MI, where they have a long history. In fact, I believe the host said that the Barn may have hosted the Rebels Quartet before the Booths. They come there every year around the same time, and then they always go to Auburn Hills for church and another concert the Sunday after. Those two dates are the only fixed points in their entire schedule.
I mentioned having made the acquaintance of a new group called Declaration Trio when I reviewed their advance EP containing half of an upcoming project. Though I recorded the entirety of the main concert, I was so wrapped up in enjoying Declaration’s music that I forgot to turn it on for their opening set! I wished I had later. They sang “Come to the Water” (on the new project), “I Feel Like Traveling On,” and “Blessed Assurance.” They have great energy on stage and got the audience really warmed up on “Traveling On.” Then their 19-year-old tenor, Joshua Horrell, surprised me really pleasantly on “Blessed Assurance.” I didn’t know what to expect, but whenever he approached a high note, he belted it out strongly every time. He should mature well with experience. Not a prodigious talent, but a clear, able, pleasing voice. Later when I was chatting with Jake Sammons, he said several people had come up to them at NQC last month saying, “You realize that you guys are the envy of the convention, right?” because they travel with the Booth Brothers. I can’t imagine what it must be like to have that opportunity. Their sound is less strikingly similar live than in the studio, but it is clear that they want to emulate that style. Joshua sounded especially like Michael on the first verse of “Assurance.” If you want to get to know the group a bit better, here’s a great interview with SGNScoops.
Then the Booths came out and offered a wall-to-wall consistent concert experience. There was not a single weak moment. The songs were perfectly chosen and meaningfully delivered, with Michael’s classic emcee work keeping the large audience in tears and stitches all afternoon. I think this was the most responsive crowd I’ve ever seen at a gospel concert. Granted I’ve only been to a few, but all I know is this was a great bunch of folks to sing to. They laughed and cheered loudly at all the right places. It would be hard to pin-point which songs got the strongest response, because they all got strong responses. You’ll get to hear everything when I provide audio highlights at the end. Alas, I am not Dinana with her stunning video footage—my camera was barely able to take pictures as it was due to a low battery (hence the scarcity of pictures and the fuzziness of the shots I did manage to snap). One of the funniest moments during the concert came when a lady in the front row who was incessantly taking pictures got noticed by Michael. He simply paused in the middle of what he was saying and posed for the camera with a “cheese” grin. I’m sure he wished she would stop, or at least slow down, but he took it completely in stride. Anyway, as I was saying I’ve chosen to do the next best thing to video and string together audio clips of all the performances for you, plus some of Michael’s in-between moments. First, here’s a set list with commentary:
He’s So Good To Me: Short and sweet, not a stand-out on the CD but a perfect concert icebreaker.
I See Grace: This always generates crowd response. It makes for an exciting, vibrant live number.
Masterpiece of Mercy: You might recall that I posted a short interview from half-time in which Ronnie told me this was his favorite song on the album. The harmony has a purity and sweetness about it that is all the more appealing in a live setting.
Look For Me At Jesus’ Feet: The audience erupted into applause the moment Michael began singing. He took it a bit easier than he sometimes does, going lower where he could have gone higher in places. It seemed like his voice was a bit worn out that day, but he turned in a very moving performance nonetheless.
Welcome To the Family: We were debating later over who had ear-pieces and who didn’t in order to figure out whether they had gotten their tone from there for the a cappella intro to this one. It was determined that at least Ronnie and possibly Jim did not, which makes the fact that they were perfectly on key to start with all the more impressive.
Here there was a break for some comedy about Baptists and ties. Ronnie was wearing blue jeans and boots, and Michael pretended to be shocked, shocked at this betrayal of their heritage. He then looked at the “bulletin,” which apparently prescribed hymns next ( ) and spoke about how it’s a shame to see them falling out of use in today’s churches. Yet they are effective and sound, and their words ring true today. He then said something which really made me think, which is that centuries ago, those hymn-writers weren’t writing with the goal of being published or making money. It’s a different world from today’s market-driven society where song-writers collect royalties for their work. But the Charles Wesleys and Fanny Crosbys wrote simply out of the abundance of their heart, to serve the Church and glorify God.
Hymns Medley (“Wonderful Peace/Old Rugged Cross/How Great Thou Art”): This was done a cappella. My dad happened to be sitting close to where Ronnie was on stage and caught his attention during the singalong on “How Great Thou Art.” Ronnie gave him his signature A-OK sign.
All Over the World: This is honestly a song I always skipped when listening to Declaration, but it just plain works live. It’s so dang fun to watch, even if the rhythm is impossible to keep up when clapping along. Michael summed it up at the end: “You haven’t lived until you’ve heard a Southern Gospel samba in a barn!”
She Still Remembers Jesus’ Name: By now most fans of the group know that this song holds special significance for Michael and Ronnie since their grandmother passed away after suffering from Alzheimer’s. Interestingly, Michael shared that there had been one lady who came up to him (“You old ladies can be mean!”) and demanded that they never sing the song again. He asked her why, and she said “Well, didn’t you see those people crying?” Michael responded, “But ma’am, did you hear the hope?” She was unmoved: “People don’t hear that. All they heard was the bad part.” Then he continued, saying, “Well, ladies and gentlemen, when you go to a doctor, if that doctor is good for you, he’ll tell you what you need to hear so that he can help you fix the problem. And what some of you need to hear is that there is hope in difficult situations.” Light can’t cut through the shadows if there are no shadows for it to penetrate. I can tell you that there was a lot of light in the place when Ronnie sang this song, and we saw people dabbing their eyes all around us. I think they heard the hope. However, I can’t forget to mention a moment during Michael’s moving introduction, when just after he said, “Regardless of our feelings, the word of God is true,” a cellphone rang. Not missing a beat, he said, “See, God’s calling right now to confirm what I said. He does that a lot.”
A Higher Throne: This may have been the only song of the concert that got a standing ovation. It can be a long listen on a CD, but live, the atmosphere is electric as the arrangement builds and builds. I was particularly impressed at the full sound their voices created with no stacks (that I could tell anyway). The ending was so powerful that we just naturally stood. It felt right.
Afterwards Michael had some right-on-the-money words about how our heart’s desire should be Christ and Christ alone, and that ultimately he is the only reason we should desire heaven. Christianity isn’t about all the “stuff” we’ll get, it’s about following him and ultimately being united with him. He then did some great “preachin’ ” to set up the next song.
I love Michael’s little “mini-sermons” because he manages to pack so much truth into such a limited amount of time, in a simple and clear way that connects with everybody. Michael may not have been a prize student, as he often reminds his fans, but nobody can deny that he is an effective speaker with a special gift. And like King David of old, he cannot contain his passion and yearning for God. It pours out of him in whatever he does.
When You Bow At Jesus’ Feet: One of their most beautiful recent songs, written and sung by Jim Brady, this sounded just as good live as it did on the album.
See, What a Morning: I think there may have been another standing-O for this one—not sure at the moment. In any case, this was “for anybody from Ireland” as Michael humorously put it. A rousing take on one of the Gettys’ best songs that always works to close off the first half of their concerts.
At half-time I collected many autographs and met all the guys, and some of you may have read what all transpired there in this post. The Booth Brothers couldn’t be kinder to their fans. At one point I looked over and saw Ronnie listening very attentively to what an old lady was telling him. He had his head bowed and his eyes closed, giving her his complete and undivided attention. There was a young woman at the concert with Down’s syndrome, and at one point she was seen literally clinging to Michael. He was completely unfazed and gracious.
Bread On the Water: Nostalgia for me. Not quite like the Imperials, but close enough. When Michael asked if anyone liked the old Imperials and I whooped loudly, he looked over at me and grinned.
He Saw It All: Just a great song which always draws a response. The crowd started clapping when they launched into the chorus. I discovered something interesting about the lyrics recently which I’ll share after… well, never mind, I’ve got an announcement that I plan to post tomorrow.
Peace In the Shelter: Jim Brady wrote this song for his dad, who’s always found comfort in his songwriting. He introduced it by talking about his dad’s recent health issues and asked for prayer (no further news so presumably things are stable now).
Since Jesus Came: I had to look up the Mills’ Brothers’ “Glow Worm” afterwards. Michael said he might “get a letter” for mentioning it, presumably because it’s about a worm who’s glowing to attract lady worms. He said that he asked Jim Brady to come up with a song for them in that vein, except “don’t write it about a worm!” They broke out the two microphones, and it was a huge hit with the audience.
What About Now? Michael set this up as he always does by sharing the gospel and preaching the need to bear fruit in our Christian walk. It is yet another one of those songs which was written to be performed live and is twice as powerful from the stage as it is on a CD. It was a fitting end to the concert.
And I already shared about how I accidentally found Michael again after the concert and sang a duet with him, a precious moment I won’t forget. The whole concert was a great memory, and I can’t really convey how much fun it was by just writing down the experience. You have to experience the Booth Brothers yourselves. They bring a perfect balance of good music, good fun, and a clear gospel message. Michael is hands-down the best emcee on the road today, and the group as a whole manages to be both very polished and very heartfelt in their delivery. It’s no wonder they’re on top of the southern gospel world right now. People simply love them, and after watching and meeting them in person myself, it was easier than ever to see why.
And here are the clips, which I finished throwing together at the last minute. Enjoy!
[Update 9/27: If you are just now finding this post and are unable to get access to the audio, that's because 4shared changed its policy so that now only members can listen to files. Apologies for the inconvenience!]