ON CONCERTS

Dallas_11_RT_WebLast week, I took my son and a couple of friends to the Roadshow.

It was my son’s second concert, but his first in a large arena, which was impressive. We came to see Skillet, but for the most part, each one of the artists were a treat to hear. However, a lot of you worship leaders will identify with a problem I kept having.

I couldn’t turn my brain off.

I was enjoying the music, but I was also wondering how they got the screens to move around the stage.

I was discovering new bands but at the same time noticing that one of the guitar players kept signaling to one of the techs that his in-ears weren’t working.

Most of you know this. If you’re a worship leader, you’re in constant analysis mode, even when you don’t want to be. And because I can’t be content to just have thoughts, I must share them! Actually, I think recording thoughts and impressions is really helpful to those of us in ministry. The real power of critical analysis is seeing where it takes you and that often means making sure to write those things out.

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Even big concerts have bad sound. As someone who was new to quite a few of these bands, I was trying to listen closely to the lyrics and was kinda’ surprised at how often the vocal mix was too weak to decipher the words. Not trying to sound like an old guy here, but I really didn’t know what some of them were saying. It was good to see that maybe a bad mix happens to us all now and then.

Programming is prominent. This isn’t a surprise since most every pop song has some level of programming these days. In addition to that, a touring 4 or 5-pc. simply can’t duplicate the songs like they sound on an album. But listening to programming for band-after-band-after-band, I was surprised at how many of the most memorable, hook-moments weren’t being played by actual humans on stage. At times, it was as if the bands were just set pieces for a soundtrack that was scheduled to play.

Church drummers shouldn’t go to too many concerts. There’s a reason why church drummers struggle with the “play simple / less is more” approach. BECAUSE NO ONE DOES THAT. I don’t expect a rock show to have less-is-more drums. It’s a show meant to impress. But I was motivated to be more gracious toward drummers since most of them have been inundated with flash and performance from their earliest listening experiences.

I like small venues. There is definitely a power to hearing 10,000 people cheering or singing. It is absolutely cool to see a rock band playing in sync to kinetic, orchestrated film on a giant screen flanking the stage. But I think hearing a good band in a small venue is much more enjoyable. As a musician, I want to see what chords they’re playing. I want to see the interplay between band members and what sorts of pedals they’re using.

Real music is refreshing. I’m using “real music” here only because I don’t have a better descriptor. To my ears, there was only one band that didn’t play with any pre-programmed tracks. And to my ears, that band had more power and impact than any of the others. In a culture that’s digitized and quantized, having real people in a room playing instruments people can see really is special.

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What about you all? Had any of those worship-leader moments lately where live music performance taught you something?

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2 comments

  1. Johnny Simmons

    Is it only the drummers? Listen to some of the melismatic/ad libbin’ singers!

    Just a by product of importing concert behavior into the Church. We have to make a better distinction.

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