Andrew Peterson's Christmas album, Behold The Lamb Of God - The True Tall Tale Of The Coming Of Christ, has increased in popularity each year since its release in 2004. The piece is now regularly performed in Christmas pageants around the country and Peterson's yearly tour of the album has become a highlight for him professionally and of the Christmas season for many folks.
Making the tour's farthest stretch run from Peterson's home in Nashville, the Concord, New Hampshire show was a dream come true for many of the album's fans in the Northeast. Playing in the ornate and spacious Capitol Center For The Arts theater, Peterson and friends (nearly twenty musicians in all on stage) played over three hours of music in various formats, and warmed a chilly New England evening with good humor and fantastic songwriting.
As the lights dimmed, Peterson opened the evening with a crowd sing-along of the old hymn "How Great Thou Art" and explained the format of the first part of the show. The very large band Peterson had brought with him was made up of individual songwriters who would be conducting a "songwriter in the round," where each performer would get the opportunity to tell a story and sing a song. A row of chairs was on stage for the rest of the performers to take their seats while out of the spotlight. Peterson explained that this was a southern musical tradition, and he was beyond happy to share the first part of the evening hearing his friends and fellow songwriters perform.
Peterson himself went first, playing the closing song from his latest album, Light For The Lost Boy (number five on the JFH staff's year-end "best of list"), "Don't You Want To Thank Someone." Peterson humorously explained that this was the longest song he had ever written, and if it helped the audience, they could think of the nine-minute song as three songs or one song with a few movements. The epic, U2-like tune, played by the entire company (including two drummers, nearly five guitarists and eight vocalists), was a great choice to begin the songwriting exchange.
Andrew Osenga (formerly of The Normals and Caedmon's Call) came next and played, "Things I Never Told You," a rocky number from his latest solo album Leonard The Lonely Astronaut, again with the entire stage of musicians as his backing band. Matthew Perryman Jones, who faked an Irish accent on the behest of Peterson (who introduced each of his friends with a funny story), likewise chose a loud number, appropriately titled "Waking Up The Dead," as his first piece. Starting a Christmas show off with three loud and raucous songs was an interesting choice, given the number of older folks who had come to see a "Christmas show," but the songwriters slowly won the crowd over with heartfelt stories and some amazing songwriting.
Jill Phillips and husband Andy Gullahorn next presented their folksier tunes, with Phillips sounding a bit like Jennifer Knapp and Gullahorn excelling at James Taylor-like acoustic folk. His song "I Haven't Either" provided a funny and thoughtprovoking take on outward image, with lines like "have you ever been so selfish that you let your baby cry while you finished up a video game? I haven't either."
Quite honestly, the sheer amount of songwriting talent on the stage was staggering. Song after song won over the audience, particularly with the "VH1 Storytellers" format that allowed the listener to connect with the material in a stronger way by knowing the backstory of the song.
After an hour and a half of stories and songs, there was an intermission, and afterwards, Peterson and friends took the stage to perform Behold The Lamb Of God in its entirety, with no interruption. Peterson, noting the lateness of the hour, wryly commented that he would have the audience out of there in "45 minutes and 18 seconds." Playing the album from front to back was a great choice to end the evening. Highlights included Jill Phillips' powerhouse performance of "Labor Of Love," Matthew Perryman Jones' version of "Deliver Us" (performed by Derek Webb on the recording) and the silly "Matthew Begats," in which Peterson sang the entirety of the genealogy of Jesus found in Matthew chapter one.
True to his word, the band performed the closing saga of "Behold The Lamb / Sing Out With Joy" 45 minutes later before an audience that gave the group a well-deserved standing ovation.
Closing with a short Christmas devotional from the book of Galatians, and a sing along of "O Come All Ye Faithful," Peterson and friends left their New England audience (with folks who had traveled all the way from New York City to Canada) with hearts full and lifted up.-- Tincan Caldwell, 12/18/12
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