Saturday, April 12, 2008

Concert Review: Derek Webb and Sandra McCracken - 4/11/08

Who: Derek Webb / Sandra McCracken
When: 4/11/08
Where: Eddie's Attic (Decatur, GA)

Live music has always been a Team Redd staple. We've eased back on our concert-going lately, since we get plenty of free entertainment from Jacob. But when we saw that Derek Webb and Sandra McCracken (two of our favorite artists) were coming back to Eddie's Attic (one of our favorite concert venues), we couldn't pass it up. Since we've lauded Eddie's in numerous previous posts, I'll simply note that the venue is one of the best places ever to hear singer/songwriters. They always book great acts, the listening room is cozy, and the audiences are super-attentive. Allison and I braved the brewing April storms and trekked down to Decatur, met up with some friends, and braced ourselves for some fantastic music.

For the uninitiated, Derek Webb is a former member of the band Caedmon's Call, and he has released a string of terrific albums since striking out on his own. Sandra McCracken is Derek's wife and a phenomenal singer/songwriter in her own right. Each has released an impressive discography as a solo artist. But the real magic happens when they collaborate together, especially in a live setting. There's just something about their performances together that isn't always apparent on the albums (as great as they are). We went to the first of two shows they played last night. Unfortunately, a late start meant a shorter show, since they had to clear us out in time for the second show. Nevertheless, fun was had by all.

They opened the show with Sandra's "Last Goodbye." The first set consisted mostly of Sandra's songs with a few of the duets from their new Ampersand EP. On all but one ("Springtime, Indiana"), Derek provided guitar and vocal backup. Unfortunately, Derek was recovering from being sick, so he was having some issues with the high notes. But it still sounded good. (Digression - I think the last time we saw them perform, Sandra was sick. Maybe next time we'll get both of them healthy!)

Sandra played a good sampling from her albums, with the notable exception of The Builder and the Architect (probably due to time constraints). They played three songs from Ampersand, including a version of Dylan's "If Not For You." She also played a couple of new songs. I thought it was funny that whenever Derek talks about his "new" songs, he's referring to songs from his latest album. For Sandra, however, "new" songs are those she hasn't yet recorded. She said she had written about nine songs for a new album, which is very cool news. I'm amazed at how prolific a writer she is, even moreso since she writes such quality songs. The two new ones were great, with an especially poignant one called "Tie That Binds," which beautifully juxtaposed lyrics about a dying child with references to Jesus and the empty tomb.

Derek played his set solo, starting with "Lover" and winding through selections from all his solo albums (with the absence of I See Things Upside Down). He also threw in "Faith My Eyes" (from Caedmon's 40 Acres album) as a crowd request. As someone who has seen Derek many times, I found the most interesting performances were songs from his latest album ("Name" and "I Wanna Marry You All Over Again" from The Ringing Bell). On the album, these tracks are full-band rockers, but last night they were stripped-down and bluesier -- a completely different feel, but it worked. Derek closed the night with "This Too Will Be Made Right," a hopeful note that was even more appropriate given the menacing storm that was rolling into the area by the end of the show.

In between songs, Derek exhibited his typical banter. He noted that just a few days prior, he was terribly sick and motionless on his couch, unsure whether he would even be playing at Eddie's. But then Sandra put on the DVD of Back to the Future, which restored him. (At one point between songs, Derek had a brief coughing fit, and Sandra jokingly asked if she should put the DVD on the in-house video monitor for him.) After a brief disagreement on the setlist, Derek explained that he and Sandra try to have all their arguments on-stage, noting that "it's cheaper than going to a marriage counselor, and the audience gets a little extra entertainment." He bemusedly described how the biggest "hit" he's had since going solo is a song that got used on Grey's Anatomy -- "over a montage of fornicating doctors." And finally, as usual, Derek implored the audience to show their love to the good folks behind the bar. "Remember, their love language is beer sales." Quips like these help flesh out Derek as a weird, funny little guy, which makes him all the more endearing.

All in all, Derek and Sandra put on another great show, as expected. They are definitely two of best singer/songwriters around these days, and all the more so when they join each other on the stage. If they are playing anywhere in your vicinity, don't miss them.

Setlist (semi-complete and somewhat in order)

Sandra (with Derek)
Last Goodbye
Long Way Home
Trade My Love
When the Summer's Gone
If Not For You
Springtime Indiana (solo)
new song
Tie That Binds
No More Tears

Nobody Loves Me
A New Law
King and a Kingdom
Faith My Eyes
I Wanna Marry You All Over Again
Wedding Dress
This Too Shall Be Made Right


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