I had the privilege of attending this April 26 concert. I call it a privilege simply because it was an awesome night.
The concert opened up with Bill Gaither singing “Old Friends” and interacting with the audience. He then introduced Sue Dodge, a native of Northern VA and has been featured on many of the Homecoming videos. She was followed by a three-song set by Gordon Mote consisting of “All That Noise,” “Mercy Walked In,” and “Don’t Let Me Miss The Glory.” The videos that went with Mote’s songs really added to the performances.
Ben Speer was featured on one song. It is good to see a legend like that still chugging along at such an advanced age. Janet Paschal did a two-song set to follow.
Ernie Haase & Signature Sound charged the crowd up with their energetic song list. They brought David Griffith with them to play bass guitar, giving them a complete live band with Kevin Williams on guitar, Grit on bass, Greg Ritchie on drums, and Wayne Haun at piano. The crowd ate it up, warranting several completely live encores of “Get Away Jordan,” in one particular instance. Judging by the response, it is a pretty safe bet that EH&SS will carry out what they mentioned a while ago about adding a live band to their solo concerts. (Side note: Since the time of this writing, they’ve announced that they are adding a three-piece band for their 2009 Summer Tour, at least.)
Another thing I have noticed with EH&SS lately (and this concert further confirmed it) is that their stage presence has definitely matured over time. It’s not all about the choreography and dancing around anymore; rather, that’s become a small part of their set, and they are now more of a throwback to the old quartets. Most of their set was done around two mics, even throwing in an impressively tight-harmony a capella rendition of “Wonderful Grace Of Jesus.” Sure, the energy is very much still there, but they’re giving the naysayers a whole lot less to complain about.
Lynda Randle followed up with two songs, the latter in tribute to a couple that happened to be in the arena that helped her into a Christian school. Bill Gaither encored it a couple times, and then the lights went completely out. If you’ve read recent concert reviews and kept an eye on Youtube, you can guess what happened next; the new GVB started into “Alpha & Omega,” with the lights progressing up as the song went on.
I came to the concert not knowing what to expect from the new GVB. I’d heard they were incredible, and I’d seen the Youtube clips, but unless you hear something like that for yourself, it’s all talk.
All those who are unsure about the new lineup, go catch a concert soon. I have heard every lineup the GVB has ever had, and I can honestly say that this one is the best. The blend is superb, and each singer is impressive in his own right. David Phelps and Wes Hampton alternating on tenor makes for a great high range. Michael English is sounding more and more like his old self again, and is clearly having the time of his life. Mark Lowry has matured in both voice and stage presence. Sure, he’s still the clown, but his serious side has developed a whole lot since he went off on his own. Even Bill, at the ripe old age of 73, is still sounding good. I was particularly impressed at his bass slide on the end of “He Touched Me.” Tim Duncan was nowhere to be seen, so I was surprised that something that low could come out of Bill Gaither.
The second half was a typical Homecoming gathering, with different singers singing old songs. The concert closed with a powerful version of “Because He Lives,” followed by “Holy Highway.” All in all, it was a fantastic night, and one that showed a bright future for the GVB. I am eagerly awaiting the two projects that they are currently at work on.
My friend Jeremy Bell over at VA Southern Gospel was in attendance and took many pictures, which can be viewed here, here, and here.