NQC 07: Saturday night
An anticlimactic conclusion to three long days, with a long weak lineup at the center, tonight was both interminable and largely tiresome, to the extent that I simply could not make it all the way to Legacy 5’s final set (which would have meant wading through the Dove Brothers). So tonight’s report will be brief(er). I’ll have more later this weekend about the songwriters showcase and the Brooklyn Tab concert on Friday and Saturday. For now, let’s get to the mainstage.
THE B IG STUFF
Booth Brothers: As a piece of showmanship and a musical stand, a near perfect set. “Thank him for the Miracle” is the kind of mellow mid-tempo tune that sets a fine tone for things, and the Booths built some wonderful harmonic ornamentations – subtle but sophisticated – onto the end of their phrases in a way that really made the song pop out in a live setting and distinguished it as something other than just a competent live rendition of a familiar recorded cut. Added value and all that. Jim Brady’s version of “Crucified with Christ” was wonderfully sung – he has improved markedly in the last few years, developing a rich, round, warm tone that’s full of the confidence and maturity to put unadorned whole notes out there, right into the mic, and let them ride, glide, and build into expansive phrases that carry the dramatic weight of the song without frivolous augmentation or frills. Roy Webb joined the BBs again tonight (too bad they don’t just hire the guy and let him do his solo thing with them), making an acoustical “Look for Me” possible. It’s a very effective and evocative song in the BBs hands, but additionally, the set up to it showcased how and why Michael Booth is probably the best emcee working on the stage in gospel music today. He has a way of flirting with and jostling and enticing the audience that’s genuinely funny but also manages to feel very personal, even to those of us up in the rafters. … it’s an enlightened, intelligence, gifted, and rare thing to watch. My only complaint is that you couldn’t hear ¾ of the words they sang or said, and this was only exacerbated by Ronnie Booth mumbling and talking way too fast to be understood.
The Talleys: Or should I say, the Lauren Talley Extravaganza, Continued. Their cut of “That’s Enough” should be a No. 1 song and Lauren Talley’s set-up and performance of “Orphans of God” – a song whose artistic and lyrical magnificence no one in gospel music seems to get (it really is the kind of tune that defines a generation conceptually) – really left the impression that Talley is one of the few sg artists whose talent could be exported seamlessly to almost any other related genre, Christian or secular. “I don’t Understand It” or a tune of somesuch title really dragged down the center of the set. It’s a musically gimpy, lyrically flaccid tune that wasn’t helped any by Debra Talley talking too much to set it up. But “Too Much To Gain” got them back on track.
The Perrys: My general impression of the Perrys after this weekend is that they have reentered the ordinary atmosphere and are once again breathing the same air as most of the rest of gospel music, after several years of stratospheric success. Tonight’s set was well paced – save for two back-to-back quartet-style numbers (“Every Question” and “Come and Get Me”) at the center of things that tended to run together stylistically and lyrically. A lot of what they sung tonight seemed to remind me of another song in their recent songbook that was just a bit better (“Hide Me Again,” for instance, makes you long for “Calvary Answers for Me”). But that’s largely a matter of taste and nostalgia. Emotionally, the Perrys’ sets feel dialed back, or maybe held back, by something, which is not so much a criticism as an observation. I can’t be absolutely sure, of course, without doing more work than I’m accustomed to, but I’d wager that the Ps new music is keyed lower than it was with Loren Harris, and this has a dampening effect on things for a coupla reasons: the lows tend roar more and get muddier, more quickly, and second, spending so much time in lower registers made the P’s already wide intonation of their lyrics even more difficult to understand, esp on “Every Question.” Which is to say, by keying their stuff downward, the Ps have taken the edge off things, slackened the intensity just a bit, and taken a bit of the oomph out of their sets.
If “Potter knows the Clay” could ever rise out of the mid-range and catch the trade winds of a higher register, it might very well be a big hit for the Ps. It’s certainly a fine song, full of wonderful little grace notes in Habedank’s harmony and built around Libbi Stuffle’s trademark delivery. I’m not as sure about “Look no Further.” The song seems to lack a center to me. It’s lyrically longwinded and the melodic line meanders a lot. The effect is that it takes a long time to make its point – it’s all middle with very little end, so that when the dramatic and lyrical conclusion finally does arrive, it gets rushed. The final chorus is expansive and satisfying, but needs more time to establish itself.
Finally, I sure hope Joseph Habedank was in the arena to hear Jim Brady sing “Crucified with Christ” so he could see and hear how the less gifted (though still very talented) Brady could outsing a talented vocalist like Habedank by simply singing the melody clearly and well. It’s what separates showmen from stars, and it will be an undiluted pleasure to hear Habedank when/if he and the Perrys (‘cause honestly, his bosses are more than a little responsible for his professional development) figure this out.
BONUS STANDOUTS AND OTHER THINGS WORTH MENTIONING
Florida Boys Tribute: A big let-down, I’m afraid. First off, the production quality and the style of the tribute video was deplorably amateurish, like something somebody’s cousin put together with 10-year-old editing tools in his basement. As for the music, Terry Davis was disappointingly out of shape and flat through most of … the FB’s most famous song that shamefully escapes my memory and that I stupidly didn’t note but that isn’t “Consider the Lilies.” I also didn’t get why Darrel Stewart stood on stage sort of awkwardly through the set when his place for 50 years has been at the piano. Why end things in a way you never ever did them before? The entire going away party was careful to note that Les Beasley, Glen Allred and Stewart were retiring (as opposed to the FB’s going away) and at the end of the set Beasley brought Charlie Waller and two of the Fake Florida Boys on to introduce them to the world. Waller tried his earnest best to convince us his acquisition of the FB name is more than opportunism, but it wasn’t very persuasive. There was a clever moment or two when Stewart passed Josh Pope, Waller’s pianist, a pair of red socks and the kid sat down and put them right there. But that only reinforced that the Fake Florida Boys’ teenage pianist is the only known entity in the group, and I’m afraid it will take more than red socks on a kid to make the Florida Boys 2.0 anything more than a joke.
Kim Collingsworth: She’s got a huge following and I can see why now. I’m still not a big fan of the over-reliance on stagey tracks, but Collingsworth is like a tasteful, able, prettier, classier Dino.
Dixie Echoes: Their piano-and-two-mics maybe a little schticky but at the end of a week full of overamped, overproduced tracks, what a delight to hear four guys sing with a keyboard and a bass. And Shelnut knows how to bring it on. They’ve got some issues vocally at times (the tenor can get out of hand with his endings at times and when
Dale Randy Shelnut (hat tip RP) tries too hard he can overextend his voice pretty quickly), but the bass is a fine vocalist who, much like Aaron McCune, works hard to sing pleasant notes and worries less about you remembering how low he sang and Stewart Varnado lays down a classic piano style that holds it all together. It was so much fun to watch them all get positively giddy as the crowd got behind their set with them.
THE GRAB BAG
Pfeifers: New rule … no one ever gets to sing “O Holy Night” ever again. The Pfiefers’ tormented us with a version of this song that nearly ruptured my inner ear. The woman singing it seems to think the high head tone she’s using comes off as a sort of operatic soprano, but it doesn’t. It just sounds harsh and forced. The Pfiefers “O Holy Night” puts the false in falsetto. And their music is just stunningly unmoving. What is the appeal of this group?
Whisnants: Second new rule … no on ever gets to justify repeating a song they’ve flogged to death all week by saying “we weren’t gonna do this but we’ve had so many requests for this song …” If you’ve had that many requests, just sing the song already. No need to rationalize your choice. Otherwise, sing something else. The Whisnants work hard and have a good ear for songs that fit them well. But they haven’t yet found something to distinguish them from Jeff and Sheri and other more established mixed groups.
The Exhibit Hall should really just close after Saturday afternoon. It was a ghost town after 7. NQC has got to find a way to keep its exhibitors on site. Perhaps getting back closer to Freedom Hall next year and out of the annex will help. I dunno. But artists seemed like they couldn’t pack up and tear down fast enough. Not only is this a disservice to weekend fans. But it’s kinda diminishing to see your favorite artists in their civvies hustling road cases and product boxes out to the bus like rats from a singing ship.
Anniverersary: I think someone mentioned this in the comments, but why didn’t anybody tell Clarke Beasley and Co. to take down that ridiculous spotlight decal projected onto the side of Freedom Hall that misspelled the word anniversary?Email this Post