Concert Review: Triumphant Quartet

My church recently hosted a concert by Triumphant Quartet.  Attendance was fairly strong, especially for the Thursday night after Thanksgiving.  I would place the crowd somewhere between 250-300.  With the timing of the concert being the beginning of the Christmas season, the guys took the opportunity to “practice” quite a bit of their Christmas material on us with several exclusively Christmas concerts coming up.  The entire first half, save the last song before intermission was Christmas themed music.

Set List:

  • Hallelujah
  • Medley: Hark The Herald Angels Sing/O Little Town of Bethlehem/Children Go Where I Send Thee/Do You Hear What I Hear/Go Tell It On The Mountain/Joy To The World
  • God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (acappella)
  • Jesus, Oh What A Wonderful Child
  • Jesus Is Lord For All Time
  • Jesus Is Born Today
  • Angels We Have Heard On High ( piano instrumental)
  • Deck The Halls ( piano instrumental)
  • Tennessee Christmas (piano and harmonica)
  • It Is Well

Intermission

  • Saved By Grace
  • Love Came Calling
  • Mary Did You Know?
  • The Old White Flag
  • The Great I Am Still Is
  • How Great Thou Art
  • Almost Home

Triumphant is currently celebrating their 10th anniversary as a group, and they are a bit of a rarity in SG in that they have had no personnel changes in the 10 years of the group’s existence.  Their opening song, “Hallelujah”, was a great choice to start the concert as it got things started off with a great intensity.  The medley that followed was fantastic, and the crowd really seemed to enjoy the fast, energetic arrangement of “Children Go Where I Send Thee”, and the ending of “Joy To The World” was great.  The group’s rendition of the Cathedrals’ classic acappella arrangement of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” was absolutely note perfect and highlighted the incredible blend of the four voices.  David Sutton can really carry a tenor ballad, and he did an outstanding job on one called “Jesus Is Lord For All Time.”  He has one of the most expressive tenor voices in the genre, and I enjoy the fullness of his tones.  I’ve always liked the song “Jesus Is Born Today”, which was originally recorded by the Oak Ridge Boys on their 1982 album, Christmas, and Triumphant did a great job bringing it back.  As with their recent cover of the Oaks’ “Everyday”, Triumphant really does well bringing back classic songs from the Oak Ridge Boys, that style really is the strength of Triumphant.  Jeff Stice played his fantastic arrangement of “Angels We Have Heard On High” that he recorded with Perfect Heart on their CD Live At The Forum.  He then shared that he had a request from his mom to record a piano Christmas CD that had no other instrumental backing, just Jeff and his piano.  He played a thrilling arrangement of “Deck The Halls” from that CD before David Sutton joined him on stage for a piano/harmonica duet on “Tennessee Christmas.”  The one non-Christmas song of the first half, “It Is Well”, left the crowd on their feet as they left for intermission.

Let me just say that it is quite a daunting task to play a piano solo offertory after hearing 3 instrumentals featuring Jeff Stice, one of the best piano players we’ve ever had in SG.  After the intermission, the group absolutely wowed the audience with their two recent #1 songs, “Saved By Grace” and “Love Came Calling.”  Both songs are most deserving of their chart topping positions.  Triumphant’s version of “Saved By Grace” exceeds the original Florida Boys rendition, in this blogger’s opinion.  Eric Bennett may be the best bass singer in Southern Gospel at communicating a lyric and carrying a bass solo, and I’ve long enjoyed his rendition of “Mary, Did You Know?”.  Clayton had easily 2/3 of the audience waving white handkerchiefs on “The Old White Flag.”  That song has been part of their stage show for a long time now, and it’s amazing to see how the crowd enthusiasm has kept up over the years, and doesn’t seem to show any signs of waning at all.  Scotty Inman shared a very moving testimony about the medical challenges that surrounded the birth of his daughter, with a poignant challenge by a friend that he’d spent all this time practicing his faith, and that this trial was a challenge for him to “use it.”  That lead into a very powerful performance of “The Great I Am Still Is.”  This is still likely the strongest lyric the group has recorded in their 10 years, and it is completely obvious why this song has staying power in their repertoire.  Ending with “Almost Home” had them leaving the stage with the crowd once again on their feet.

As I mentioned earlier, Triumphant is celebrating 10 years as a group, and with a stable lineup over that entire time, you can easily understand why the group displays such an incredible sense of unity.  From a perfection of their vocal blend, to an uncanny ability to pick material that fits each member like a glove, to the ability to anticipate each other’s stage presence and vocal embellishments in a live performance, Triumphant operates like a well-oiled machine.  Eric Bennett is a very capable and comfortable MC who reads the spirit of an audience very well, and is one of the best bass singers in the genre, hands down.  Scotty Inman has basically grown up in the group, and not only possesses infallible tones as a baritone vocalist, but he has become a fantastic writer as well.  He is easily one of the top young vocalists in Southern Gospel.  Clayton Inman has been one of SG’s best lead vocalists for years now, and he completely commands a stage.  Young, aspiring lead singers need to spend some time observing Clayton Inman, as there is no better example of what a Southern Gospel lead singer should be.  David Sutton has an unmistakeable tenor voice that draws you in immediately.  His ability to carry a tenor ballad puts him in the top tier of tenor vocalists in SG, and he has a full, rich tone that is a rare find.  I’ve long enjoyed listening to David sing.

Triumphant is riding high in SG right now, having won quartet of the year for several years running now.  It’s no surprise with the stability in their lineup that they’ve hit such a stride.  Quite simply, they are one of the best we have to offer.  If you can catch them during the Christmas season, please go see them, their Christmas material is a great blend of traditional songs with some nice originals as well.  If not, catch them the next time they are in your area, you’d look long and hard to find a quartet that puts on a better concert or service.

Photos (courtesy of our church’s Ministry Assistant, Donna Harris):

Concert Review: Crist Family

Thursday night, March 15, my church hosted the Crist Family in concert.  It had been two years since we’d had them, so this was the first chance I’ve had to hear the material from their Oasis CD live and my first time to see them since the departure of Tom Joyce.  The crowd was incredibly disappointing.  I’d estimate at 100, maybe 125 if I were to be generous.  Not sure what caused such a low turnout, we did nothing different than normal in promoting the concert.  That being said, the Crist Family was very professional and sang just as hard for the 100 as they would have for 1000.

Here is their set list from the night:

  • When I Get Carried Away
  • I Believe He’s Coming Back
  • My Oasis
  • Joy’s Gonna Come
  • He Is Amazing
  • I Love Lovin’ Jesus
  • His Strength Is Perfect
  • I’ll Sing A New Song
  • My Heart Knows
  • The Rock

Intermission

  • Jesus Hold My Hand
  • I Must Tell Jesus
  • It’s Been A Journey
  • Great Beyond

The concert started with a couple of well known SG classics, and though the crowd was sparse, it was readily apparent that those who were there were in good spirits and quickly became attuned to the group.  One positive of the smaller crowd was that it led to a much more intimate feel that carried on throughout the evening.  Breana Crist did a fine job on “My Oasis.”  It’s a very soothing, smooth song that seems to be made for Bre’s voice.  It has always been one of my favorite cuts on Oasis.  Tami Starkel has a big, powerful lead voice, and “Joy’s Gonna Come” really gives her a chance to showcase some powerhouse vocals.  It really gets the energy going in the crowd.

Highlight number one followed though, with the mellow, big band harmonies of “He Is Amazing.”  The group did something unusual with this song, however, they started the song acappella.  The first line is all the ladies unison, then the guys join for the second line, still in unison, then on the third line of the first verse the parts all split into some tight big band jazz harmonies.  They muted the track until they hit the chorus.  So we got the entire first verse, including the harmonic split and beyond acappella before kicking in the track for the chorus.  When all those voices split into the 5 and 6 part harmonies with no accompaniment, it will send chills down your spine.  Wow.

Another highlight followed right on the heels of “He Is Amazing”, and that was the next song “I Love Lovin’ Jesus.”  To date, this is the highest charting single for the Crist Family, as it climbed all the way to #3.  It’s a simple lyric, with a fairly simple (for the Crist Family, anyways) arrangement, but it’s a catchy tune, a memorable message, and a marketable sound.  Jackie Crist really shines on it.  Tami Starkel shared a powerful testimony of her struggle with epilepsy before singing their cover of Steven Curtis Chapman’s “His Strength Is Perfect.”    It’s a moving performance that coincides with a touching testimony.  Jackie Crist’s performance of “My Heart Knows” alongside of her dad and sister is also a highlight of their set.

During the intermission, the group introduced Tami and John Starkel’s son, Luke.  Luke took his guitar to the front of the stage, sat on a stool and proceeded to sing a couple of songs that he had written.  Luke’s style is much more contemporary oriented, but he is VERY talented.  I thoroughly enjoyed both of the songs he performed, and his performance added even more variety in style to the Crist’s concert experience.  GREAT job, Luke, and be watching out for this young man.  He absolutely has a bright future ahead of him in Christian music.

After Luke’s mini-set, the group returned to the stage with “Jesus Hold My Hand.”  The next major highlight of the evening came next.  The group put their mics down, walked to the center of the auditorium, and sang their arrangement of “I Must Tell Jesus” acappella, and without any amplification.  One thing I can brag about my church on is that the acoustics in our sanctuary are great, and this performance was an evidence of that fact.  Wow.  No stacks, no tracks, not even microphones, just pure, sweet harmony on a timeless hymn.  My brother took a video of it.  You will have to excuse my son climbing around to get a better look, he was captivated, and I hope mine and my wife’s heads aren’t too in the way.  🙂

The mood became quite reflective at this point, and after a testimony of the things that Rich and the group have been through, he pulled out one of their earlier songs, “It’s Been A Journey”, that they hadn’t performed in quite a while.  It really fit the atmosphere at that point of the concert, and led wonderfully to an invitation.  After the invitation, they closed with the upbeat “Great Beyond.”

It had been a couple of years since we’d had the Crist Family, they’d released two CDs and had the departure of Tom Joyce, but this group continues to grow and develop their niche in the Southern Gospel industry.  Their harmony is terrific, their testimonies moving, and their concerts are always enjoyable.  The Crist Family is one of the true rising stars in this genre, and for good reason.  I hope they continue to push themselves musically, and through many discussions with Rich Crist, I’m confident that they will.  He’s the only person I know with a more eclectic collection of music on his iPod than mine!  Seriously, don’t miss the Crist Family if they are in your area, they are a great group with a great sound and a powerful message.  You will be glad you went.  Thanks guys for a terrific concert!

Photos:

Concert Review: The Kingsmen

Last Friday night, my church hosted the Kingsmen in concert.  The crowd size was a little disappointing, but with a big high school football game that night, I wasn’t too surprised.  I would guess the crowd to have been around 200 strong.  Despite the crowd being a bit down, the Kingsmen showed no lack of energy when they hit the stage.

Set List:

  • Inside The Gate
  • Loving Shepherd, Gracious God
  • After The Sunrise
  • When I Wake Up To Sleep No More
  • Missing People
  • What A Day That Will Be
  • He’s Everything I Need
  • That’s When I Knew It Was Him

Intermission

  • Instrumental (a piano solo by a young man named Andrew Flower, who was in attendance)
  • Traveling Home
  • I Owe It All To Him
  • I Can Hardly Wait
  • Healin’ Stream
  • Getcha To The Other Side
  • Glory Road
  • When God Ran
  • Invitation (I Surrender All)

First let me say that Randy Crawford was very sick, and could barely talk, much less sing.  Other than a couple of pickup lines on “Glory Road”, about all he was good for was adding in the baritone notes on the end of songs and a little bit in the trio section of “Loving Shepherd”.  Big time kudos to Randy for giving literally everything he had.  He couldn’t talk very loudly before the concert, and afterwards he could barely whisper, but he did his best, the sign of a true professional.  Hope you recover quickly, Randy!  Reviews of the newest Kingsmen album, Grace Says (including the one upcoming on this site), have all pointed to “Loving Shepherd, Gracious God” as a highlight due to Ray Reese’s touching vocal solo on the second verse.  As good as it is on disc, it’s even better live.  Ray has always been a great communicator at the bass spot.  He may not have the smoothest or lowest voice, but few singers connect with the message of a song or the crowd at a concert better than Ray Dean Reese.

“After The Sunrise” is also a cut from the new album, and it’s a great one in concert.  It’s classic Kingsmen “three chords and a cloud of dust” that goes over extremely well.  It was also neat to hear “Missing People” live, during the break towards the end where the studio version has different voices speaking, those recitations are not on the track and Bryan Hutson speaks live.  I had wondered how they would pull that off in concert.  “He’s Everything I Need” is a Joseph Habedank penned tune and is there latest single.  See “After The Sunrise” commentary.  The first half closed out with Harold Reed singing “That’s When I Knew It Was Him.”  If you liked “God Saw A Cross” on their last album, you’ll like this one as well.  Harold did a fine job on it.

After the intermission, Bryan and Ray gave a product pitch then asked a young man in attendance, named Andrew Flower, to come on stage and play a piano solo.  He’s a student at Bethel University (where Matthew Holt teaches), and can flat out play piano.  He’s a friend of a friend of the group, and he did a great job playing.  The second half was primarily made up of Kingsmen classics.  “Traveling Home” started off with some great energy.  Bryan then dedicated “I Owe It All To Him” to the memory of Jim Hamill.  While this was one of Big Jim’s signature songs, Bryan Hutson absolutely drilled the song.  It’s a bit of an obscure tune these days, but it’s a great song that Bryan really does justice.  Ray Reese does a great job on “Healin’ Stream,” and apparently my 7 month old loves that song, because once it started she began bouncing up and down on her mommy’s lap, which nearly caused Harold Reed to bust out laughing.  Funny moment.  “Getcha To The Other Side” was a pleasant surprise, as I’d not heard reports of it being on their set list.  Also, Harold told me after the concert that it was the first time they had performed “I Can Hardly Wait” live.  If that’s the case, they need to keep it on the set list.  It’s another great uptempo song.

Let me say also a few words about Harold Reed.  When he joined the Kingsmen, there was a lot of debate about whether he could be a “Kingsmen tenor” or not.  I’d been fairly impressed with his performances on CD, but he did a great job live as well.  In listening to their recordings I’d wondered about his power in his upper range, but those concerns were put to rest Friday night.  While Reed was a solid tenor with the DMB, in the middle of the concert I leaned over to my dad and mentioned how much he’d improved since then, and he wholeheartedly agreed with me.  Harold Reed IS a Kingsmen tenor.

Members of the Kingsmen typically have a certain song they become known for.  With Jim Hamill it was “Love Lifted Me”, Wayne Maynard had “Child Child”, Tim Surrett had “Wish You Were Here”, Jerry Martin had “Look For Me At Jesus’ Feet”, Squire Parsons had “The Lovely Name Of Jesus.”  For Bryan Hutson, that song is undoubtedly “When God Ran.”  That song was just written for Bryan’s voice.  He sings it with such conviction, feeling, and power that if it doesn’t stir you, you need to check yourself out.  I was glad to see it still on their set list, and I personally hope it stays there indefinitely.

Lastly, let me talk about a thrill of a lifetime.  After I finished playing the offertory, and as Ray was getting ready to start his product pitch, Bryan came and sat beside me and leaned over and asked me if I knew how to play “Glory Road.”  I told him I did, and he said he’d bring me on stage to play it for them.  So right before “When God Ran”, Bryan did just that.  You’ll see a couple of pictures of it below that were taken by our church’s Ministry Assistant.  (Thanks Donna!)  It was an absolute thrill, and I’m going to hold Bryan to getting to play a couple for them the next time they are at Faith!  Seriously, thanks for the opportunity guys, you don’t know how much that meant.

The Kingsmen have been flying a bit under the radar lately, at least since “When God Ran” was released, but they are definitely alive and well.  I’ve always considered the lineup with Jerry Martin, Bryan Hutson, and Parker Jonathan to be the most vocally talented lineup the group has seen, but their current lineup absolutely rivals that late 90s group.  Coupled with the release of a very strong CD (review coming soon, I promise!), the Kingsmen are poised to return to the top of the quartet world.  If you have a chance to go see them, please do!  I can guarantee you a night of great singing, high energy, and moving lyrics.  Thanks for stopping by to sing guys!

Photos:

Concert Review: The Booth Brothers

Saturday night, my wife and I were privileged to attend a concert by the Booth Brothers at Second Baptist Church in Union City, TN.  The venue was an absolutely beautiful facility that had plenty of seating.  I would estimate the crowd at somewhere in the 350-400 range.  After the church’s music minister led the congregation in a medley of some familiar hymns, they wasted no time in bringing out the Booth Brothers.  Here is their set list for the night:

  • He’s So Good To Me
  • I See Grace
  • Masterpiece of Mercy
  • I’ve Never Been Out of His Care
  • Welcome To The Family
  • In Christ Alone
  • Hymn Medley: Wonderful Peace/Old Rugged Cross/How Great Thou Art
  • Bread Upon The Water
  • Don’t Hang Your Head and Cry
  • I’m The Lamb
  • All Over The World
  • She Still Remembers Jesus’ Name
  • When You Bow At Jesus’ Feet
  • See What A Morning

Intermission

  • Look For Me At Jesus’ Feet
  • He Saw It All
  • Since Jesus Came
  • I’m Feelin’ Fine
  • What About Now?
  • We Believe
  • Truth Is Marching On

“He’s So Good To Me” is a great upbeat concert starter, and following it up with the tremendous “I See Grace” makes for a great 1-2 punch.  When we did our mega-review of Declaration, we all pointed to that song as a highlight, and it continues to be so in concert.  Jim Brady really delivers the song’s powerful message well.  Michael Booth does an incredible job singing “I’ve Never Been Out Of His Care”, which is an old Stamps Quartet song featuring Bill Baize from 1973’s Leaning On The Arms Of Jesus.  A funny thing about this song though, is that until my wife looked at my set list on my iPad, she thought they were singing “I’ve never been out of His hair…”  Talk about misheard lyrics!

The group paces the concert well, with Michael handling the large majority of the emcee work.  After the upbeat “Welcome To The Family”, they slowed things down with an acappella hymn medley.  Of course, the minute they finish the last note of “How Great Thou Art”, the brass and guitars kick in on their new version of the classic by the Imperials, “Bread Upon The Water.”  I’ll say more about this song when I do the review coming up soon, but only the Booths can pull off such a wide transition between styles.  Michael Booth has referred to their recordings, especially the new one as schizophrenic with all the different styles, but it’s a testament to them that they pull all the disparate styles off expertly.  Adding to the psychosis, shall we say, is their popular Southern Gospel Samba (I’m taking credit for this one, I coined this phrase on the mega-review of Declaration.  You’re welcome, Michael!), “All Over The World.”  This one exudes high energy, and the crowd was on its feet by the end.

“She Still Remembers Jesus’ Name” is a sweet, tender song, and it comes across even more so in concert when Michael shares about his and Ronnie’s grandmother who suffered from dementia and the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s before she passed away.  The point is made that they typically try to choose songs that are universal in application, but this song makes such a strong statement about the issue of dementia, and hit so close to home for them, that they made an exception with this song.  Ronnie really has the voice to convey a powerful message, and he does a great job with this song.  “See What A Morning” concluded the first half with the crowd again on their feet.

After a short intermission, the group (eventually) made their way back on stage.  Michael proceeded to wow the audience with “Look For Me”, Ronnie got them standing again with “He Saw It All”, and then the group did a bit of a tribute to the Mills Brothers with their new song “Since Jesus Came.”  They performed the song with two mics, the way the Mills Brothers used to perform.  It all added up to a great concert highlight, and then ratcheted the intensity way up with the classic “I’m Feelin’ Fine.”

“What About Now” is a ballad on their new release, and there will be plenty to say about it in the review.  I’m sure I will say it again then, but this song has some of the most in your face, challenging lyrics that may have ever been recorded in Southern Gospel.  After this song, with the mood turned quietly introspective, Michael shares a 10 minute or so “sermonette” that clearly presents a complete synopsis of the Gospel and salvation.  To counter the crowd that says they didn’t pay to hear preaching, Michael glibly replies “This part is FREE!”  At this point, Ronnie and Jim left the stage.

When Michael finished, the track kicked off to “We Believe”, and the order of solos that we discussed in the mega review began to make more sense.  Michael sang the first verse.  Jim then entered the stage singing his verse, and Ronnie did the same for the third.  After this song, they tried to dismiss the concert, but the promoter asked that they sing “Truth Is Marching On.”  Even though they didn’t record the song, they perform it extremely well and really ended the concert strongly.

The Booth Brothers have been riding atop the SG industry for several years now, and I learned why with this concert.  Michael does a great job as the emcee, balancing his zany sense of humor with an unexpected depth when the time calls for it.  I’ve been a big fan of Jim Brady’s writing and singing for a while now, and had that reinforced Saturday night.  His songwriting is top notch, and he’s a fine singer as well.  Oh, and thanks for the anniversary gift, Jim!  We did enjoy it!  Ronnie Booth has an incredibly smooth, pleasing lead voice that just simply oozes pathos and raw emotion.  He also plays the straight man to his brother’s comedy very well.  You’d think they’d been doing it all their lives or something!  I really enjoyed getting a chance to talk with both Michael and Jim for a while after the concert, and along those lines be looking for a surprise in the near future.

The bottom line is this: the Booth Brothers are the cream of the crop in Southern Gospel today, and their concert experience just simply provides more evidence to that fact.  They’ve been named Artist of the Year the last two years, I believe, in the Singing News Fan Awards, and it’s an honor that is well deserved.  I fully expect them to win it again this year, and for good reason.  Do not miss them if they are in your area, you just won’t find a concert experience any greater than the Booth Brothers!

Photos:

Concert Review: The Dills

First of all let me apologize for my absence lately.  Between real life commitments and a house full of sick people, including an ambulance ride with my 3 month old daughter (she’s fine now!), my blogging time has been really hampered lately.  However, last Sunday morning my church hosted The Dills during our morning service.  This was a bit unusual for us, I can only remember us bringing someone in on Sunday morning one other time.

Setlist:

  • He Promised Me
  • Lord I Lift Your Name
  • Days Of Elijah
  • Holy of Holies
  • These Hands
  • God Is In Control
  • It Is Well
  • Oh I Want To See Him
  • Tired Of Running
  • Rise Again
  • Oh What A Beautiful City
  • Shout To The Lord
  • Uncommon
  • Jesus Never Fails
  • Jesus Loves Me

While our church is not used to Sunday morning concerts, it was plainly obvious that the group was right at home in a Sunday morning worship setting.  Tim Dill continues to grow and impress as an emcee.  He uses the right amount of self deprecating humor along with serious spiritual testimonies.  He also keeps the concert moving along, as they did about 15 songs in a little over an hour.  Tim has learned how to efficiently manage and maximize their time.  Since most of our Sunday morning crowd have not heard them, even though we’ve had them several times, they did a pretty standard set of material, only doing 3 songs or so from their new CD.  Those 3, however, seemed to go over really well with the audience.  Especially powerful is the title track, “God Is In Control”, which they sing along with the video that they placed on YouTube.  The song is very timely, their performance excellent, and the message poignant.  I’ve always liked their versions of the worship songs “Lord I Lift Your Name On High” and “Days Of Elijah” as well.  When the group sang their current single, “Rise Again”, they did something very special for me, as a proud daddy.  I had mentioned to Tim and LeeAnn when they were setting up the night before that “Rise Again” had become my 4 year old daughter’s favorite song.  When they were doing soundcheck, they let Erica come up and sing it with them.   When they came to this song during the service, Tim asked Erica if she’d like to come sing it with them, so she made a mad dash to the stage.  Needless to say, I was about to bust, and thanks guys for giving her an absolute thrill.

The next four songs of the set are four of the strongest songs that the group sings.  Marcy Kelcey’s classic “Oh, What A Beautiful City” is obviously a fan favorite of the group, as I don’t think I’ve ever seen them not sing it, and it never fails to elicit a great audience response.  Bridget took the lead on “Shout To The Lord” with Shawn providing the only accompaniment on piano.  I’ve always said that “Uncommon” and “Jesus Never Fails” back to back make the best lead in to an altar call I’ve seen, and I still maintain that position.  The group sang “Jesus Loves Me” while giving an invitation at the end of the service.

It’s clear that the Dills are very comfortable in both a true concert and worship service setting.  They are very good at reading the mood of the service/concert, and gearing their song selection to that mood.  Their performances are very solid, their song selection is good, and their attitude and spirits are warm and genuine.  If you have a chance to catch them, either in a concert or in a worship service, do yourself a favor and go.  You will come away entertained, refreshed, recharged, and incredibly blessed!

Photos:

Concert Review: Perrys

Last night, my church hosted the Perrys in concert.  Attendance was great, the lower section of the church was basically full, with a few people up in the balcony.  I’d place the number somewhere between 250-300.  This was my first time to see the group with Bryan Walker, who is a definite asset to the group, and a very personable guy to boot.  Here is their setlist:

  • Every Time I Need Him
  • His Love Lights The Way
  • I Know It Was The Blood
  • He Loves To Save
  • Did I Mention
  • This Old Sinner Testifies
  • Grace Doesn’t Remember
  • I’d Rather Have Jesus/Great Is Thy Faithfulness
  • Celebrate Me Home
  • If You Knew Him

Intermission

  • Blue Skies Coming
  • Living In Canaan Now
  • Nothing Was Burned
  • The Potter Knows The Clay
  • He Will Hide Me
  • Almost Morning
  • Damascus Road

The Perrys hit the stage with great energy, and sang the first six songs on the set list with no “commercial interruption” of any kind.  The crowd was enthusiastic from the start, frequently applauding solo verses and giving prolonged applause at the conclusion of songs.  The Perrys really seemed to feed off of the crowd’s energy, and kept things going the entire night.

Tracy Stuffle handled the lion’s share of the MC work (he is the “talker” of the group, while the others are “singers”, as he says).  When doing group introductions after “This Old Sinner”, Tracy handled them in a way I’d like to see other groups follow.  Tracy would introduce a member, then have them sing a song before moving to the next person.  It’s a good way to maximize the amount of music on the concert while effectively introducing the person to the crowd, a very significant portion of which was seeing the group for the first time.

He introduced Joseph Habedank, and had him share the story behind the writing of “Grace Doesn’t Remember.”  I’m always interested in hearing the story behind the song, and Joseph’s testimony of writing the song is very powerful.  They nailed the song as well, it’s an incredibly powerful song done live.  I continue to be impressed with Joseph’s growth and maturity into a stellar lead vocalist.

Following that song, Tracy introduced Bryan Walker, shared about him being the “Singing Police Officer” on last year’s American Idol, then put him on the spot to sing a couple of songs acappella.  This provided one of the funnier moments of the night, while Bryan was thinking about what to sing, someone in the crowd yelled “You can do it, dawg!”  to which Bryan laughed and replied “Thanks Randy!”  Bryan then launched into “I’d Rather Have Jesus”, and after a verse and chorus, at Tracy’s prompting sang a verse and chorus of “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.”  Tracy mentioned that got Brownie Points as it is one of Libbi’s favorite songs.  Well it is one of mine as well, so great choice Bryan.  Both hymns really showed what a talented singer he is with these two hymns.

Tracy then called Libbi to the front of the stage and related a very touching testimony about his bout with open heart surgery and the sacrifices that Libbi has made over the past months to accommodate his restricted diet and his exercise requirement.  Their story is one of incredible love and devotion, and serves as a model of what true love and commitment in a marriage looks like.  Libbi then sang the group’s current single, “Celebrate Me Home”, and all the praise heaped on this song is very much warranted.  A great song, a great lyric, and it’s sung by a masterful communicator in Libbi Stuffle.  One of the absolute highlights of the night, followed by another great moment in a powerful rendition of “If You Knew Him.”

After intermission, the group returned to the stage with the title track of their new CD, “Blue Skies Coming”, which brought the same amount of energy as the first part of the concert.  “He Will Hide Me” was spectacular, with Bryan Walker and Joseph Habedank splitting the verses.  The most poignant moment of the concert was the performance of “Almost Morning.”  I requested the song before the concert, and Tracy used it as their invitation, and shared a moving testimony of a recent struggle he has had recovering from all his health issues.  It set the stage perfectly, and Joseph Habedank delivered a wonderful performance of the song.  Shortly after I reviewed the album of the same name, I went through several trials personally, and that song was a great source of comfort and encouragement to me.  It doesn’t have a high ending, no real tricky harmony, but it’s a powerful lyric, beautiful melody, and Habedank sings it expertly.  Tracy had him sing another verse and chorus acappella as an altar call.  It was a moving and powerful moment.  They left the stage with a stinging version of “Damascus Road.”

The Perrys have been riding on the crest of the SG circuit for several years now, and they show no signs of slowing down.  In fact, the current line up with Joseph Habedank and Bryan Walker joining the Stuffles as the potential to be the strongest lineup the group has ever had.  Habedank and Walker’s voices complement each other very well, and as I said in my review of Blue Skies, it will be interesting to hear their next recording when they are able to take advantage of songs that are chosen to fit Walker’s vocal strengths.  An evening with the Perrys is an evening of high energy, exceptional quality singing, and moving testimonies that are interspersed at just the right amount and at the right intervals.  If they are in your area, do yourself a favor and go see them.  You’ll miss and enjoyable concert experience and a tremendous blessing if you don’t.

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Concert Review: Deltacappella and Take 6

Saturday night, my wife and I enjoyed a night out as an early Christmas present from my brother.  He surprised us with 6th row tickets to see Deltacappella, a local acappella group of 12 guys from the Memphis area, and Grammy award winning vocal group Take 6.  I’ve been a huge fan of Take 6 since high school, but this was the first time I’d ever seen them live.  Take 6 was also celebrating the news that their newly released Christmas album, The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year, had reached the #1 spot on the iTunes jazz chart.  The concert was sponsored by Deltacappella, and was held in the historic Orpheum Theater in downtown Memphis.  There were probably a couple hundred people in attendance, but the auditorium was nowhere near filled.

Deltacappella opened the concert with about a 30 minute set.  Here is their setlist:

  • Little Saint Nick (with a clever lyric substitution of “Merry Christmas Memphis”)
  • White Christmas
  • God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
  • Dahum Dores/You’re A Mean One, Mister Grinch
  • Blue Christmas
  • Vocal Percussion/Drum solo
  • Little Drummer Boy
  • Rudolph
  • 12 Days Of Christmas

Deltacappella was very impressive.  The singers come from all different walks of life: jewelry store owner, teachers, music ministers, and one is even an ENT doctor.  A significant portion of the audience appeared to be family/friends/coworkers of the guys in the group.  Their vocal percussionist, Paul Koziel, was especially impressive; his vocal percussion solo absolutely wowed the audience.  Their performance of “12 Days Of Christmas” is similar to the Straight No Chaser version in which they start mixing in parts of other carols, instead of singing the song straight through.  These guys have some nice harmonies, and I was pleasantly surprised and entertained by their part of the concert.

After a 15 minute intermission, Take 6 hit the stage.  Unlike Deltacappella, their set was a mix of their regular material and a Christmas set in the middle.  Here is their setlist (I wasn’t familiar with a couple of songs, so I may have the titles wrong):

  • Straighten Up And Fly Right
  • I’ve Got Life/Spread Love
  • Wade In The Water
  • Smile
  • Windmills Of Your Mind
  • We Wish You A Merry Christmas
  • Hark The Herald Angels Sing
  • Joy To The World
  • Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
  • Let It Snow
  • Dance Of The Sugarplum Fairy
  • Sweet Little Jesus Boy
  • I’ll Be Home For Christmas (dedicated to our troops)
  • O Come All Ye Faithful
  • When I Fall In Love
  • There Will Be No
  • You Can’t Hide
  • What A Fool Believes
  • Stay
  • Just In Time
  • We Got The Victory
  • Mary (Encore)

Take 6 is Claude McKnight (brother of R&B superstar Brian McKnight), Mark Kibble, Joey Kibble, David Thomas, Cedric Dent, and Alvin Chea.  Their set was incredible.  The “I’ve Got Life/Spread Love” medley was kicked into overdrive.  Claude McKnight does my favorite version of “Smile”, and did a great job on it that night.  Joey Kibble’s vocal muted trumpet is even more amazing to hear it done live, and he provided some of it on several songs throughout the evening.  “Windmills Of Your Mind” has some exquisite harmony.  All of the guys will take turns as emcee, though David Thomas doesn’t tend to say as much as the rest of the guys.  The primary emcees are really Cedric Dent and Mark Kibble, with Alvin Chea, Claude McKnight, and Joey Kibble speaking less frequently.  They all for the most part keep the mood light and entertaining, but Cedric and Joey are both very adept at bringing the concert to serious moments.  Aside from a couple of jazz standards and a little mini-set of secular music influences, the rest of their material is unabashedly and unapologetically Christian.  Take 6 makes no apologies for their faith, and strive to make their concerts, even when they are doing some secular tunes, always be pointed to Christ.

The Christmas set was great.  They did a fairly good mix of songs from all three of their Christmas CDs.  They mentioned that the Memphis show was only the third time that they had done “Dance Of The Sugarplum Fairy” in the US, but it was a really enjoyable rendition.  While there are no lyrics, the harmonies and swinging rhythm they give the tune is a nice twist from the traditional classical rendition.  Joey Kibble threw the rest of the guys a curve by calling “Sweet Little Jesus Boy” and they nailed it.  I’ve always loved their arrangements of “Hark The Herald” and “Joy To The World”, and “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” is given an excellent doo-wop treatment, with Joey Kibble shining on the lead line. Easily the highlight of the Christmas set was “O Come All Ye Faithful”, however.  After singing the song through, Cedric Dent led the audience in singing the “O Come Let Us Adore Him” chorus, then Take 6 repeated their tag, and really led to a worshipful moment.

They ended the concert by doing a little mini-set of music that influenced them, highlighted by a fantastic rendition of the Doobie Brothers “What A Fool Believes” and Joey Kibble taking on the standard “Just In Time.”  They left the stage after “We Got The Victory” to a crowd screaming for more, so they came back on stage and performed their classic “Mary” as an encore, complete with the ad-lib contest between the Brothers Kibble.  The audience absolutely ate it up.

When one takes a harmony course in a collegiate music program, Take 6 should be required listening.  Unlike the typical group in Southern Gospel, Take 6 has had exactly one personnel change since their 1988 debut recording, and that was when Joey Kibble joined his brother Mark in the group, replacing Mervyn Warren.  They have had the same 6 members since 1991.  With that type of stability, you would expect their stage presence and performances to be second nature, and those expectations are met very well when you see the group.  The men of Take 6 are consummate professionals from the minute they step on the stage.  They do a fine job of mixing up the material in their concert, as “Straighten Up and Fly Right” and “Windmills Of Your Mind” are from their latest non-Christmas release, The Standard, while “Spread Love” and the song they did as an encore, “Mary”, are both from the 1988 debut.  I’ve always wanted to see them live, and after having finally had the opportunity, they didn’t disappoint.  Even if you’re only a casual fan of jazz or acappella singing, please don’t miss out on a chance to see this legendary group live.  Their performances are incredible, and it’s an experience you won’t want to miss.  Hopefully I’ll get the chance to see them live again!

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