by Danl Blackwood
She began her set in a solitary spotlight at center stage. Standing in a larger-than-life window frame, without any instruments to hide the message, she sang, "If there's anything good that happens in life, it's from Jesus". It was apparent to this writer, that the only thing "sold out" about Amy was her tour stop in Wichita. I had to wonder how many of the 5000 people present heard that message for the first time. Even the local news wondered, as they wandered the crowd before the concert wanting to know what we thought about the alleged involvement of Target, Amy's sponsor, as a contributor to the pro-abortion Planned Parenthood. What they didn't know (but found out) was Dayton Hudson Corp., Target's parent company, had ten years ago made a single non-abortion related donation. In fact, Target's support was apparent that night at a Habitat For Humanity booth, and Amy also told us Habitat would gain enough from the proceeds at the end of the 46-city tour to build 75 homes for families in need. But enough politics! What about the concert?
The evening started just a couple minutes late with Gary Chapman and his band, and a musical message of the Gospel from his latest album, "The Light Inside". Gary looked relaxed in his maroon jeans, white T-shirt, and black sport coat, except for one small detail - a pretty nasty black eye. Last week, while attending a Phoenix Suns basketball game at the invitation of A. C. Green, it was Green himself who crashed out of bounds and incredibly landed right on top of Gary. Gary got smacked on the head, and received enough of an injury to his head to put him out of commission for a couple days. He's OK now though. Gary is quite the comedian. While explaining that it was an incredible act of humility to be a warm-up act for his wife, he asked us if we remembered when our moms used to tell us at dinner - Finish all of this, and you can have your desert. "Well, you can consider us your Brussels sprouts for the evening", he said facetiously, and the crowd cracked up. Gary's voice was strong, and his rhythm and blues testimony was clear. My favorite was "Sweet Jesus", which tells a story of a baby being saved from drowning, and survives to know the Savior that saves us all. He shared a new song, "Written In The Scars", that describes Jesus' crucifixion wounds, and that the answer to life is written in those scars. The song had a strong back beat, and is to be on a new album coming out in August. Gary will be touring the album with co-headline Susan Ashton this fall. Right before his last song he wanted to "strongly encourage us to stick around for Amy". The crowded acknowledged again with laughter and applause. His final selection of a 35 minute set was an old Imperials tune, "This Old Gospel Ship", and really rocked the crowd. The band then broke into a typical lounge act break song and Gary gave the usual "Really good to be here, how's your dinner, don't forget to fill out the card on your table" nightclub patter, and then sang a verse of "All Of Me (Why not take all of me)". The performance was entertaining, funny, inspirational, and a strong witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Here's the break down of Gary's group and song list:
Guitar - Gary Chapman Bass - Danny O'Lannerghty (also tours/records with Rich Mullins Ragamuffin Band) Drums - John Hammond (also tours/records with Susan Ashton and Wes King) Keyboards - Tim Akers (sp?) Guitar - Mark Ogle (sp?) Gary's Set-- Where Are The Broken Hearts Floodgates Of Love Sweet Jesus Written In The Scars (new) Great Is Thy Faithfulness (acappella) Sweet Glow Of Mercy This Old Gospel Ship
After only fifteen minutes to prepare the stage, Amy thrilled everyone for almost two hours with a great selection of her extensive recordings. She sang almost every song from her new "House Of Love" album, and quite a few from the two albums previous. (See the breakdown below). Her comfort level on stage was infectious, and even had a bunch of kids from the audience come up on stage to dance with her on "Say You'll Be Mine". She looked as beautiful as ever wearing a sleeveless green velvet vest over a dark burgundy and green flowered broomstick skirt (I relied on my wife for that one, she just looked great to me). At one point she had to comment on how strong the popcorn smell in the auditorium was, and how it was making her hungry and thirsty. She asked, "Could someone go get me a Coke?", and someone did. Also someone up front handed her a box of popcorn, and she warned the people up front to be careful because she might start spitting popcorn.
The band was remarkable; an extraordinary ensemble. (Did you have any doubt?) Most noticeble was Wayne Kirkpatrick, Amy's co-writer and producer for many years. She informed us that this was actually the first time Wayne ever toured with her. For those of you, like me, who are voracious liner-note readers, we'd all be millionaires (alright, thousandaires) if we had a nickel for every time we saw Jerry McPherson listed. This outstanding guitar player is on just about every other album I own. A real treat for me (being a former bass player) was listening to Chris McHugh. Quite possibly the BIGGEST sounding drums in the business, this former White Heart drummer, now a two album/tour veteran with Amy, is developing quite a studio portfolio as well. Amy has a custom of hiring backup singers that can sing circles around her, and proved it when she let Tabitha Fair and Kim Keyes wail on part of "Lead Me On".
I guess A&M Records, with the help of many big names in the industry, is doing a special re-release of "Tapestry", the huge album (odds are very good if you bought any albums in 1971, you have this one) by Carole King. Amy shared with us her contribution, "It's Too Late". It was very nostalgic for those of us over thirty (OK, over 40). During the instrumental she danced with Wayne.
Half way through her set, we were treated to "Amy Grant Unplugged". With acoustic guitars (all Taylors, I think) sounding so good they made me want to spit on my guitar, we traveled fifteen years and six albums starting with one of the first songs she ever wrote. Amy even played guitar on a couple songs after informing us she had to "chop off her nails" to do so. She shared that when she met the writer of "Father's Eyes", he (Gary Chapman) changed her life forever, and Gary came out to sing harmony. Before he left, he gave her a kiss to the thrill of the crowd, and even grabbed and kissed Wayne on the cheek. "El Shaddai" was a beautiful piano-only solo complete with starlight background. Throughout the whole concert, the set was constantly changing to meet the mood of the song. A rotating/folding backdrop provided different scenes from a daylight city skyline with flowers, to a bedroom at dusk (complete with a larger than life venetian blind lowered from the ceiling, that was later lowered all the way down), to a mountain view from a outdoor cafe, and so on.
The remainder of the evening featured songs from her last two albums. On the title cut from "House Of Love", Wayne filled in for Vince Gill's part, and Amy invited the audience to "take advantage of the last slow song of the evening". Several dozen couples obliged (including yours truly), and filled the aisles with dance. After closing with "Helping Hand", she came back for a two-song encore. As we made our way back to the car, we were in agreement that we all witnessed a true professional who is able to bring her witness of life and love and her Lord Jesus to "all the nations of the world".
Here's the break down of Amy's group and song list:
The Group Vocals - Amy Grant Vocals - Tabitha Fair Vocals - Kim Keyes Keyboards, Vocals, Guitar, Concert Producer - Wayne Kirkpatrick Guitar - Jerry McPherson Drums - Chris McHugh Guitar, Vocals, Keyboards - William Owsley Keyboards, Vocals - Rick Palombi Bass, Vocals, Guitar - Millard Powers Set List - (Song [Album]) Hope Set High (short acappella intro)  Good For Me  Say You'll Be Mine  Lucky One  Big Yellow Taxi  Lead Me On  Ask Me  Oh How The Years Go By  It's Too Late [upcoming Tapestry re-release] Hats  Whatever It Takes  UnPlugged Set Mountain Top  Father's Eyes  Everywhere I Go  Find A Way  Saved By Love  El Shaddai  We Believe In God  Wise Up  The Power  House Of Love  Baby Baby  Every Heartbeat  Helping Hand  Encores Children Of The World  I Will Remember You  Albums represented  - Amy Grant (1977)  - My Father's Eyes (1979)  - Age To Age (1982)  - Unguarded (1985)  - Lead Me On (1988)  - Heart In Motion (1991)  - Songs From The Loft (1993)  - House Of Love (1994)
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