Smith, Knapp, Rice Bring Down the House

by: 

Chris Kearney
Sep 15, 2000

What a night! All things good and powerful with beauty and majesty appropriate to the truth. Michael W. Smith was the cover artist last month and we were reminded why Saturday night; he is a sweet humble-spirited artist who has endured many eras with intensity and gravity. Fourteen albums of singing, the next project is instrumental with the Irish film orchestra. "Freedom" is the working title and the title track we were treated with to whet our appetites. Not surprisingly, it received a standing ovation. In this we were treated to
the inner core of this artist and there is gold there - seasoned and ready to be savored! He said it is a film score for a yet to be created film in his
head.

The rest of his set was wonderful. Instead of the worship set of the last tour, his piano-time shared his heritage of worship tunes and ministry-music from "Friends" to "Place in this world" to "Oh Lord our Lord How Majestic". The band was earthy and authoritative. A great little drum-solo, passionate guitar work, and when everyone sang it was beautiful. "Cross of Gold" was just plain fortissimo-fun! I particularly enjoyed seeing "Secret Ambition" really performed.

Having heard the songs of Jennifer Knapp on the radio I expected energy. Well,
this girl has the goods! This is also proof that if you have a good music
director you can open the envelope, not just push it. With a 3-piece guitar
trio backing her She totally and fully exploded any previous notions of the
tameness of Christian rock. Jon Roberson a California promoter said to me she
had a really good band. But as usual, his understatement carried a big stick!
Mark Townsend, an avalanche of musical magma, wielded his guitar supporting her
without stealing the show, adding depth to Jennifer's stormy rock'n roll.

Both Jennifer and Michael embraced the excellence of their band-mates with grace. This was a breathtaking evening of musical expanse. Nicole C. Mullen
punctuated the night with her self-penned "I Know My Redeemer Lives". To say this is only Black Gospel is simply not enough. After an emotionally charged expression verbatim of Psalm 8, she brought the whole house
down to the foot of the cross in one song.You go girl! Take it to the world!

Nicole and Mark, are former band mates of mine so I'm
partial. Seriously they are as good as it gets. Both these artists as side-musicians, represent cutting edge well-developed talent. Mark with Bash, dcTalk, Sparks, Steve Taylor and his own band Zilch- too many others to mention: Nicole with MWS, Newsboys, Cece Winans, Carman, and plethora of studio appearances.

In addition, Chris Rodriguez having worked with Michael for 15 years also a prolific studio player has graced Kenny Loggins stage many times. This night was a defining snapshot of the best of what you can expect from this genre-and it was Great!

Chris Rice defined the evening at the top of the show with whole set of great songs. Like sitting in his living room- or around a campfire- he made us all feel comfortable- he was comfortable. Undaunted by the simplicity of only a
guitar, he delivered each idea with a genuine confidence that the truth was well observed from his unique perspective How to "Smell the Color Nine?" He
answered his own strange query, his second project's name, with brilliance and tenacity.

Every song these artists brought to a cool autumn evening at Amsouth Theatre was of world class quality. I would not only ecommend these artists individually; I would defy the world beyond these moralities to possess this
breed of completeness. Not only was there great music, Jennifer chose to share from her heart Ephesians 1, another time Psalm 150,and Michael shared from his heart how fragile we are. This is our Time. We need to make the most of it. I came away compelled to be a better person in the Lord. It is more than possible to experience "performance-ministry", it could be necessary.