Amy Grant’s Christmas

(With Michael W. Smith and Cece Winans)

OK, OK, I know that a music concert maybe be pushing the limits of the World of Theater, but putting it in the World of Music didn’t seem quite right either. She was on a stage, there was talking as well as singing -- that’s close, isn’t it?

The concert started a little late -- no reason was given, but Mom was sure it was because we were waiting for a group to arrive (there were a bunch of empty seats down on the floor). Our seats were near the roof -- a far cry from the Yes concert from a few years ago when we were in A4 (as opposed to C19); The next concert we go to there -- we’ll either be on the floor, or outside looking in through the windows. Anyway, the concert started with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra playing ... elevator music I guess. Most of what they played was pretty, but unrecognizable -- it could have been something from a modern composer, or ancient -- Christmas music, or not. Finally, about 20 minutes after the start time for the concert (and after 10 minutes of pretty elevator music), Amy comes out and sings a Christmas song. She tells us who’s going to be there, and sings another Christmas song. Cece Winans sings a Christmas song. Michael W. Smith’s piano comes up through a hole in the stage (I turned to my wife and said, "If this were a Shakespeare play, we’d be getting a visit from the underworld"), and he sings some Christmas songs. They all get together and sing a Christmas song, and we get in intermission. The intermission ends with the NSO playing a few more numbers (semi-recognizable this time). Then the three wise singers come back out, and we all get to sing some Christmas songs. Amy sings ‘Baby Baby’ (after a lame joke about the wise men), Michael sings ‘Friends’. Cece sings something she’s well known for (shows how much I listen to her). A roadie brings Amy a guitar and she sings ‘El Shaddai’. The guitar disappears, and the Christmas music reappears. They sing ‘We wish you a Merry Christmas’ and go off stage. We clap, they come back, we all sing, Amy sings, she leaves, and we leave.

Was it good? It was as good as any slickly produced TV Christmas special ever was -- and with 2 large screen monitors flanking the stage (and the commercials for Chevrolet and Target running before and after the show (and a save the starving children infomercial in the middle)) it sometimes seemed like one. The music was grand, and expertly performed, but not very loud -- sometimes the person singing got lost in the mix. There was certainly enough audio and video equipment to make an indie filmmaker lose his lunch in envy -- there were 3 huge mixers in the audience, 1 big one stage left, and 2 more monsters stage right. Each instrument was miked -- including the orchestra -- everyone had earphone monitors -- many of them wireless, 3 main performers and 8 backup singers with wireless microphones -- I wouldn’t have wanted to try to coordinate all of that. The lighting ranged from the plain old spotlights the Assembly Hall has had for eons, to those high tech robotic lights with color changers and moving gobo’s (those are the stencils that produce the patterns with the light -- in this case, swirling snowflakes). They even had a mirrored ball -- how much more Christmassy can you get. It was a very enjoyable Christmas show ....But..... I do believe it was the most boring Amy Grant concert I’ve ever been to. I’ve seen her 3 times before (Kiel Opera House in St. Louis, Six Flags over Mid America, and her previous visit to the Assembly Hall), so I have a basis of comparison. Let’s face it, most traditional Christmas music isn’t high energy, jump up and shout kind of stuff -- even the only ‘up’ tune the entire night (the above mentioned Baby Baby) seemed dull and bland. Perhaps the best way to sum it up was -- we went to the show with my parents -- even they thought it was a little slow. Pretty, but slow.