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The Concert of the Decade October 14, 2009

Posted by markgeil in Music.
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It was the concert of the DECADE, and I’ll bet you missed it, didn’t you? Don’t worry, I’m here to help. I wrote a piece with a brief recap and a “state of the GMA” that posted on Christianity Today yesterday, but while I was watching I kept my own little running diary of notes. So, in case you did indeed miss it, here’s the diary. And don’t worry, the next decade is just a few months away.

8:32 Eastern time, trying to log in just two minutes late for the 7:30 Central time show. I tried to get in early but was denied. I’m having a little trouble logging in, so I suppose it would have been better to drive 3 hours to Nashville and buy a $1,000 ticket.

8:41 Finally logged on, 11 minutes late after many refresh attempts. The site is half-broken, but the stream finally started with an a capella choir, the Fisk Jubilee Singers. There’s one soprano who is two close to a mic that’s turned way too far up. Plus, the backdrop in the barn here is wildly disorienting. A video montage of Dove Award moments follows including a fabulous array of famous mullets. Bart Millard introduces Amy Grant, who somehow reminds me more of Carole King every time I hear her. She performed a beautiful acoustic version of El Shaddai. This is more an in-person event than a live broadcast, with just a couple of cameras and a less-than ideal sound mix. I want to go to full-screen mode but the stream was so challenging to access I’m afraid.

Amy follows with a new song, Please Don’t Make Me Beg, and a promise to keep making music for a long time. Before that she told a story about her origins in the industry and her position now as the “first concert” for so many current artists. “I’m your Vestal Goodman without the big hair and the big boobs,” she quipped.  “So, uh, well that doesn’t lead into the next song very well. I haven’t written the breast song yet.”

9:04 Bart Millard declared himself a “product of the system”, mentioned his childhood steeped in Christian music, and then I lost the stream.

9:17 Still no stream. I’ve turned on Monday Night Football while refreshing the page dozens of times. I either get a message that the site itself is down or the player times out when trying to connect to the stream. I guess this means word got around and the concert is a big draw. Alas.

9:21   I’m a little bitter that Bart Millard killed my concert. I drove the man all around Atlanta, for Pete’s sake! Who is this Pete, by the way, and what is his sake?

9:23 That ungrateful Bart is probably singing right now, and I’m placing my bet on I Can Only Imagine.

9:25 I’ve emailed the GMA. Like they don’t know their concert of the decade is broken. I guess I feel bad for them, but I honestly thought we’d figured out streaming video. You had to register for the stream, so they must have had a decent idea of demand.

9:30 It’s back! Eddie DeGarmo is talking about the GMA and what’s going on. He just declared that the GMA is committed to hosting the Dove Awards in 2010. “This is not the beginning of the end of the GMA. It’s the beginning of the future of the GMA.” He then introduced Congressman Marsha Blackburn, who proceeded to kill the stream again. Well, I don’t think she did it. At least not intentionally. At any rate, I got 3 minutes of the concert of the decade and it was just people talking.

9:34 Whoa! It’s back again and the rest of the site even looks right. It’s like someone in Nashville just got back from Best Buy with a bigger internet cable. Our auctioneers for the evening, David Nasser and a GMA board member (Roy Miller?) took the stage. David Nasser’s personal stories are charming. He was raised Muslim, and recalls learning much about Christianity through music. “I learned that it was okay as a Christian to like girls, as strange as that sounds, through Baby Baby.” The first item up for auction is a week at Eddie DeGarmo’s beach house in Watercolor, Florida. This is bizarre. The highest bid is a steal at $2,100. I mean, dude, Eddie DeGarmo!  I would listen to DeGarmo and Key tapes all week long. And yes, I said tapes. The next auction item is a chance to be written in as a character in a Karen Kingsbury book. Brilliant idea, but no one bites at $2,500. Apparently this will go online, so you can buy it! I want to buy it so I can be the Amish farmer who falls for the mysterious maiden while the prairie winds blow. And I want to wear overalls.

9:46 Natalie Grant is telling stories of her first GMA event 11 years ago. “I am so proud to be a part of the Gospel Music Association.” Natalie passionately performs In Christ Alone and introduces Kirk Franklin and Anthony Evans. Kirk states: “This organization has done more than any other Christian organization I’ve been a part of to reach out and be diverse. This has been a community that has always made me and my friends feel at home and feel welcome.” GMA has indeed embraced varieties of music that cross cultures and races, something we sadly see too little of in the church. Kirk (well, Kirk’s choir, as it usually the case) perform Imagine Me. 

10:06 Martha Munizzi says: “Don’t kid yourselves. There are a lot of secular artists that know about gospel music. It’s their church.”  I hope that’s true, and I hope they’re watching right now, because the man joining Martha on Because of Who You Are, Jason Crabb, can wail. How Great is Our God follows as an extended gospel soul romp.

10:18 The Booth Brothers and their accents represent Southern Gospel, and declare a bit of a truce between southern gospel and the GMA. I don’t follow Southern Gospel, so I didn’t know there was a rift there, but it is so often true that adversity binds people to a common cause. The Biblical notion that trials can eventually lead to hope for the future is apparent here, and the hope is that a new GMA will be better than ever. By the way, the Booth Brothers delivered some sweet harmonies on Castles in the Sand, which is not really just about sandcastles.

10:25 Mark Hall of Casting Crowns continues the community theme. “It’s so cool to get to a place and just hear Jesus music from all different styles and all different genres.” The band sounds good on Voice of Truth. It’s an almost-unplugged version but it’s plugged in, if that makes any sense. I got it – it sounds like it would if they set up their gear in my garage and did a little show for me. Not much like the CD, but curiously endearing. Lifesong follows, and I am once again jealous of Mark Hall’s vocal range.

10:36 Jon and Sherry Rivers are brutally honest about his recent admission of addiction and his recovery, and the theme of community is broadened. Point of Grace are introduced, and I like the mandolin-backed How You Live, though the ladies’ vocals aren’t mixed as well as they could be.

10:44 Smitty time! Three roadies struggle with a Yamaha keyboard while Michael patiently waits, starts playing, then looks up to an empty mic stand. I love it! A mic is found, and Smitty launches this peppy medley: Love Crusade, For You, Secret Ambition (which was released in 1989 seems to be right in this $1,000 per plate audience’s wheelhouse), Place In This World, Thy Word (for Amy), and, yes, Friends. Here comes Amy! You just can’t beat that harmony. I honestly don’t think they sing this song together very often anymore, so this is really a treat.

“I think I’m supposed to have everybody come up, but I really don’t know what we’re gonna do… (sings) Amazing grace, how sweet the sound…” Smitty then changes the key for the group singalong, and then kicks in the Tomlin chorus, “My chains are gone, I’ve been set free…”

10:57 The credits are rolling over an entirely inappropriate smooth jazz score. Good concert. Some heartfelt reminders of why music is important and some insightful commentary on why the GMA is important. The tension between industry and ministry will always be there, but tonight the ministry was apparent.

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