You'd be forgiven if you saw this review and had no idea that Crowder had a new album. Crowder's Neon Porch Extravaganza, a 6-song live EP, dropped as a complete surprise on Friday, October 30th. It captures an evening at Passion City Church in Atlanta which included, according to Crowder, a mechanical bull, a petting zoo, inflatable jousting, and a dance floor. It might be harder to forgive you if you don't love the album cover, whether it's in your hands or lighting up your iTunes player in neon yellow, complete with Kenny Rodgers the Arctic Fox. And I'll just have to draw the line and not forgive you at all if this music doesn't get your pulse to quicken and your muscles to twitch.
The first words heard on Neon Porch Extravaganza are not those of any of the songs on the source material, Neon Steeple. Instead, with typical Crowder whimsy, you'll hear, "If it hadn't been for Cotton-Eyed Joe, I'da been married a long time ago." Live banjo sweeps in, the sample feeds seamlessly into "My Beloved," and the rollicking extravaganza is underway.
Radio hit "I Am" follows, sticking fairly close to the original. The song works well as a live singalong, and shows what modern worship music can be: honest and meaningful, aware of our brokenness and the one remedy. "Lift Your Head Weary Sinner (Chains)" is a smoldering foot-stomper, given new life (as if it needed any) by a Tedashii cameo.
Listeners who haven't seen Crowder live recently might be thrown by the next track, a brief cover of Drake's "Hold On, We're Going Home." It's a brave choice, and the crowd's reaction (and singing) display the effectiveness of Crowder's willingness to borrow songs from all sorts of genres, past and present, to craft a landscape for his own songs to play in. The song feeds into the plaintive wail of "Come As You Are," and the somber moment after the playful pop casts a brighter light on the hope of the chorus: "All who are broken, lift up your face." The EP closes with "Hands of Love," wisely picking up the tempo and surely catalyzing some jubilant dancing with its bright loop.
Neon Porch doesn't really stray too far from Neon Steeple, but the song selections are excellent. It's interesting that the sequencing is so similar to the source, as (apart from an intro and "Come Alive" in the middle) the songs on Porch are pulled in order from the first songs on Steeple. Nonetheless, there's enough novelty to make the EP worthwhile, and the EP gives a good taste of just how much fun a Crowder show is.- Review date: 11/5/15, written by Mark D. Geil of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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