Nashville, TN -- 12/6For the third straight year, the Nashville concert has been held at the historic Ryman Theater -- an appropriate venue for the army of talented musicians that Andrew enlists each year. Writing a review of the show is an interesting task, since the show is basically the same each year ... but really it isn't. The performance of Behold the Lamb of God remains fantastic and fresh each time, and each year a different nuance of instrumentation or lyric catches my attention. Even the "in the round" portion follows a familiar pattern each year, from Andrew's "hobbit" references to Derek Webb, to the obligatory Andy Gullahorn comic relief song, to the displays of mind-boggling instrumental prowess by musical guests. But again, these well-worn grooves never become tiresome.
Here are a few notes from this year's show:
(Note: There are way too many guys named "Andy" involved with this performance, so Andrew Peterson will be designated as "AP." Also, some of this might be non-chronological.)
After a brief intermission, Andrew and friends presented Behold the Lamb of God: The True Tall Tale of the Coming of Christ. If you haven't heard this album yet, you really have no excuse, since you can stream it through AP's website. This album highlights why AP is one of the finest songwriters around. Instead of taking a familiar approach to Christmas, AP begins in the Old Testament and establishes the narrative context for the coming of Christ. (Yay for narrative!) And it doesn't hurt that he has plenty of talented musicians to support him in the telling of The Story.
In addition to the artists above, AP's band included Garrett Buell (of Caedmon's Call) on drums, Cason Cooley (as seen on Conan O'brien) on bass, a string section led by the illustrious Marcus Myers (of Silers Bald), Steve Hindalong on percussion, Josh Coffey on mandolin, Kurt Heinecke (of Veggie Tales) on various flutes and whistles, the superb Ben Shive and the incomparable Gabe Scott. (Ben and Gabe were probably tied for most instruments played during the night.) Part of the enjoyment was watching the ballet of seamless instrument transitions between and during songs. Sandra sang the lead vocal in Jill Phillips' stead for "Labor of Love," and she did a fantastic job. Actually, everyone involved did a wonderful job. With all the vocal talent available, the harmonies were lush and glorious. And the musicians had plenty of opportunities to shine, especially during the instrumental versions of "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" and "The Holly and the Ivy."
Each year, we often get asked why on earth we trek to Nashville to see a concert, and sometimes we end up asking ourselves the same question. But as soon as the show starts, we know the answer. And once the show ends, a new question forms: how long until the next concert?
(As an added Square Peg Alliance bonus: we ran into Matthew Perryman Jones at dinner before the show. And I have to agree: McDougal's Village Coop has some of the best chicken tenders ever!)
Fayetteville, GA -- 12/8Providentially, the question of "how long until next time" was answered quickly, as the BTLOG tour made a stop just south of Atlanta. In past years, the Christmas tour has been a stripped-down version of the Nashville show, but this year there wasn't that much stripping down. Instrumentally, the string section was missing, as were Ron, Steve and Kurt. Pierce, Randall, Sara and Andy O. were not present either, but the rest of the vocalists were, including a recuperated Jill Phillips. Needless to say, the touring band was still a musical ensemble of extraordinary magnitude. The format was similar to the Ryman show, although each artist (except AP) played two songs in the round. I won't re-hash the concert in detail, but here are some highlights:
One final note: The concert was part of the Dickens Village that the hosting church presents each year. It was kind of surreal to hear street urchins announcing an Andrew Peterson concert with fake British accents.
We certainly enjoyed both shows, but, alas, the BTLOG tour steams on, leaving Team Redd behind. If AP and friends happen to come near your area, please check them out. As for me and my household, we'll have to make do with the cd version until next year.