NQC 09: Thursday Night
And so, dear readers, we meet again like this, me writing in a far-flung suburban hotel in
Now, off we go …
THE BIG STUFF
The Lesters: They’re performance tonight was not itself what’s behind my putting them this high up on the list. Rather, it’s that they’re too good to be relegated to a handful of minutes at the beginning of the show when everyone is still finding a seat and milling about and generally paying no attention. The Lesters have a solid lineup again with Ginger Pritchard Pitchers, her daughter Jenny, Brian Lester, and Lester’s son Jonathan (who has a lovely, sweet voice that might have long enough to settle down and soar if given more than a few hasty bars in a rushed NQC set). This particular mix of voices allows them to create some really nicely voiced harmonics. More Lesters, please.
The Greenes: Tony Greene began their set tastelessly and ended it tackily, starting with a catheter story and a joke about whether he had to squat to pee now that he had his wife’s kidney, and ending with a screechy pitch for his latest contribution to tea-bag wear, a tshirt that allegedly rebuts the (dubious) claim that the president (according to Tony Greene) recently declared the United States was no longer a Christian nation. Uh huh. Aside from whether or not it’s even allowable by NQC rules to pitch product from the stage, methinks Tony’s tea may be brewed a little strong, or maybe it’s the Faux News Blend. But no matter, though I couldn’t help but imagine the actual good he have done if he had taken the time he used to rattle his tin for tshirts and instead would have encouraged people to consider organ donation, his clumsy Jerry Glowering was nevertheless marvelously upstaged by his marvelously gifted wife, Taranda, who (I’m ready to say) is the best single female vocalist in gospel music today. I have nothing to say here that I haven’t said before … indeed, at some point tonight, when she stood a few feet to the side of Tony while he was working his way through a verse and annotated his lines with little vocal filigrees and descants, I just started giggling delightfully and stopped writing anything (for those of you listening at home who groaned when she sang “O Holy Night,” you have to believe me that live it simply doesn’t matter). Her voice and what she does with it have a way of dissolving the intellectual filter typically required in order for us to suspend our disbelief about the artificial nature of entertainment, especially pietistic religious entertainment. In its place, she constructs within the performance space a chamber of near perfectly pure feeling, of grace mingling among us. Do I gush? Yes, I gush. It’s that good.
The Collingsworth Family: There is an air of ascendancy about this group, and not for no reason. They entertainingly put on what amounts to a Christian variety show (part Lawrence Welk, part Liberace, part
The Perrys: I don’t have a lot to say about their set since the showstopper was “If You Knew Him,” and I’ve said my piece on that already. But they clearly continue to occupy a top spot among audiences. I continue to believe the response is as much about the group’s poignant vocal style in general and Joseph Habedank’s interpretive ability as a lead singer in particular (to say nothing of the vast orchestral soundtrack behind them) as much as the songs themselves (and the rambling, disconnected logic of the story Tracy Stuffle told to set up “If You Knew Him” – something about the pledge of allegiance and the principal reading bible verses at school and Christians still serving a risen savior and not wanting to be controversial – only reinforces my sense that the lyrics are both confused and confusing), but this hardly matters. It’s marvelous to witness and experience, as I knew it would be. As a songwriter friend of mine said tonight after the set: if it gets that kind of response, why bother getting better material? A very good question.
BONUS STANDOUTS AND OTHER THINGS WORTH MENTIONING
The sound: It still sucks on a regular basis (typical scene: half a dozen instrumentalists are being featured on stage, and the only instruments to be fully miked and on are the backup players, so while we see the dobro player picking his wits out on a solo, all we hear is a bunch of drumming and strumming), but slightly less than I recall from last year.
Ivan Parker: Easily the worst performance of the night, and even though I haven’t followed him closely, I’d wager that this may have been among the worst of his career. He went from struggling with pitches to missing them to simply laboring to get through the final song. I honestly wondered if he might actually stop singing during “Midnight Cry” there at the end. A real debacle.
HisSong: Too bad they got the short shrift. The schedule said they’d get 7 minutes, by no means the mother lode, but by the time Ricky Atkinson and Compassion and the Lesters got done joining HisSong for one of the regular singalong segues (about which more later on this weekend), the group barely got one song (“I Still Have it All”) in under the wire. Sure, they probably should have chosen a more upbeat tune for that short a slot, but still. Not much later, we were subjected between sets to several minutes of some strange video of sandpainting set to some soupy smooth-jazz, which made the HisSong thing all the more frustrating.
Loren Harris: He’s now with Ricky Atkinson and Compassion, of course, and they’re ok, but tonight it just seemed like a case study in professional misfortune to watch Greg Cook and Harris singing backup in someone else’s trio, and not singing very well, at that. Cook is badly out of shape vocally and Harris sounded tonight like someone trying to fit all the Loren Harris Trademark Vocal Moves into two verses of a single song. An a cappella encore is not what this situation called for.
The Whisnants: I had some (too much?) time on my hands for a while tonight and I got to thinking about this group. They have lots of personality and energy on stage, and they appear to try hard. I imagine in most of their typical venues, this works well for them. But they rely too much on the stack and tracks musically in a space that demands more than just charisma and showmanship. The results is that they don’t always seem to project a sufficiently live vocal presence to match the size of the room, or the scale of their own personalities on stage, and their sets seem to fall in the space between. To be fair, they did get the crowd on its feet ultimately, but it took five encores of “I’m Getting Ready,” many friends, several sport coats thrown into the audience, and two pianists to do it.
The Hoppers: Did NOT close with “Shoutin’ Time” (instead: “Yes I Am”). Meanwhile, it looks like “I Wish I Coulda Been There” is ramping up to become the new “Shoutin’ Time.” Enjoy it while you still can.
Echoes I: With the backing of Ivan Parker and Ben Speer, a kid named Cody Logan Smith sang “What a Lovely Name.” The best way I can describe it is that it sounded like Vestal imitating Johnny Cook imitating Vestal. It was, of course, a huge hit.
Echoes II: Bryan Hutson (the KINGSMEN! that was the other quartet I was forgetting) seems to be fashioning himself as a bit of a Hamill Come Lately, abusing the new young piano player (who got the full Anthony Burger solo treatment tonight) as Hamill was wont to do and conspicuously calling the shots during the KingsGold Lite portions of the show.
Live bands: There were a lot of solid (some ad-hoc) bands backing up several groups tonight: Jeff & Sheri,
Recession watch: When I picked up my media badge, I noticed that instead of the nice woven cloth lanyards we usually get, this year there was just a plastic bin of DIY metal-bead strings. Parking has gone up to $6 a day (a pass is available that, depending on your usage, may make it more affordable), and Jerry Goff spent nearly 10 minutes tonight singling out 20 able bodied men from among the crowd to help move pianos at the end of the night. That’s right folks, 20 lucky ticket holders will get a back stage pass to lower-back strain!
Quote of the night: From Les Beasley, regarding The Song of a Lifetime Showcase, “I don’t know what it is but I know it will be good.” I’m sure at least half of that is true.Email this Post