Releasing just after Christmas, Chris Tomlin's Live From Austin Music Hall is an 8-song live CD consisting of some of the hits that have made him the popular worship leader he is today. Recorded in his hometown of Austin, TX, Tomlin's first live release smartly blends together songs from all three of his solo releases to create an engaging, albeit brief, worship experience.
With him being one of the most recognizable names in worship music, I was curious to see how Chris Tomlin's compositions would sound in a live setting. His opener, the massive hit "Indescribable," starts off slowly but soon builds into a full-band arrangement. The crowd enthusiastically jumps in from the first verse onward, giving this song the added punch that its church-ready chorus has always been suited for. An energetic version of "Forever" follows and by this point, the crowd is eagerly into it, worshiping with a fervor that rivals even the band onstage. It's on songs like these that the live setting really pays off. Although masterfully crafted in the studio, songs like "Forever" and "Indescribable" were really meant to be sung by people everywhere, and it's the added dimension of the audience's voices that truly enhances this worship experience.
The song arrangements are kept interesting as well. "How Great Is Our God" is given a softer, piano-led treatment. This stripped-down approach is a nice change from the full-band instrumentation that dominates the rest of this project. The intimate atmosphere of this song gives the crowd an even more enticing opportunity to immerse themselves in the music. By the time Chris Tomlin sings out "sing with me / how great is our God," the audience has already beaten him to it. Although I would have preferred the song to stick to its more traditional arrangement, I have to agree that it works, especially when the band briefly splices the hymn "How Great Thou Art" into its soaring bridge.
The rest of this disc fares very well and one track, "This Is Our God," even features fellow worship leader David Crowder. Although I would have preferred to hear a few more songs (perhaps "Holy is the Lord," "We Fall Down" or even "The Wonderful Cross"), Live From Austin Music Hall still manages to capture this engaging worship leader in the live environment that clearly suits him best. Chris Tomlin fans eager to hear their favorite songs performed live should be very interested in checking out this worthwhile release.- Review date: 12/23/05 by Sherwin Frias
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