Amy Grant Brings Her Talents To Northfield's Rocksino
March 2nd, 2019
Contemporary Christian-cum-pop diva Amy Grant brought her talents and a forty-plus year recording history to Northfield's Hard Rock Rocksino last night for a nearly two hour show that drew the faithful into her world.
Grant, who launched a successful career in Christian-oriented music in the late 1970s, had a few crossover hits in the late '80s and early 1990s. To most audiences, she was the baby-faced innocent brunette who safely intoned on the smash duet (with Peter Cetera), "The Next Time I Fall" in 1986. She followed that up a few years later with 1991's Heart In Motion, a pop album that eschewed much of her background in Christian music. That record produced "Baby, Baby," "Every Heartbeat" and the beautiful "I Will Remember You," for a total of four hits that cracked the Top 20 charts.
Controversial as such with her Christian fanbase, Grant walked a tightrope between pop and sacred music, to which she still performs at her concerts. To be sure, when one attends an Amy Grant show they're sure to hear a majority of tunes pulled from her lengthy gospel discography.
Backed by a crackerjack six-piece band (including stepdaughter Jenny Gill, daughter of new Eagles enshrinee and her husband, Vince Gill), Grant took to the stage sporting a million-watt smile and a pair of red leather pants that she "got for twelve bucks at a lil' store called Blush in Nashville."
Her aw-shucks homespun nature and comments like that immediately won over the audience, even if some of the older women two rows behind me whispered under their breath about the leather pants.
No lightweight in the music industry, the journeywoman writer/performer has won seven Grammys and twenty-two Dove awards, presented by the Gospel Music Association. She's one of the most successful artists of the 1980s and '90s, selling over thirty million albums in her career.
Looking radiant and beaming that smile, Grant apologized in advance about her ability to hit some of the high notes in tunes she had written and performed thirty-plus years ago. "Some of these chords are a little hard to do," she said. "I wrote some of them when I was a teenager. Imagine trying to fit into a pair of jeans that you wore in high school."
She added, "It's kinda the same thing with these old songs."
Offering up a greatest hits of both the pop and gospel tunes, she kicked off the evening with a lively "Anywhere With Jesus." Seguing into "Curious Thing" and "Takes A Little Time," much of the audience was clearly moved by her performance.
She took a moment to acknowledge her heroes, and gave us a spirited cover of Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi." One of her earlier tunes, "Father's Eyes" was accompanied by a background story regarding her inherited dark brown eyes and the influence of her father, a hard-working doctor who "always made time for his family and the community at large."
Her banter was effortless; she seems to have that let's-get-a-cup-of-coffee-after-the-show rapport with her audience and makes it believable, like you could really sit down with her and actually talk about important things. At one point, she used the Spielberg film Hook to make a point about music. Saying that music can "pull back the years," in bringing us to a common place or even erasing the decades (perhaps taking us to a much simpler time in our lives?), she asked us to remember when one of Hook's Lost Boys contorts the face of an older Peter Pan, mushing up his features to find their lost general, and finally finding the young Pan, relieved of the wrinkles, crow's feet and stress lines that had erased the boy. It was a strange analogy, but not lost on the crowd: Music can take you back. In a good way.
Perhaps the highlight of the entire gig was when, nervously, she grabbed a piece of notebook paper and exclaimed that she and the band were going to offer us a song that she had just written last Tuesday and was performing it live for the first time. Ever.
Entitled "I Will Wait," it was a haunting rumination on life and patience. Finishing it up, she sheepishly looked at the audience for either approval or ridicule. Thunderous applause erupted from the nearly-sold out crowd. So, I guess it'll be on an upcoming record.
Of course, she gave the requisite tunes that the audience expected; an early career hit "El Shaddai" and "Sing Your Praise For The Lord" had most of the gathering singing along in unison.
Saving her pop tunes for the end, she gave us a bouncy "Baby Baby" from her crossover drop Heart In Motion and then followed that up with a subdued "Every Heartbeat."
Offering up a third cover for the night, she performed the Jackie DeShannon tune "Put A Little Love In Your Heart," a tune that I mostly subscribe to Annie Lennox and performed to hilarious perfection at the end of Bill Murray's Scrooged. It was a great cover and had most of the congregation on its collective feet.
Closing the night out, the band gave us "I Will Remember You," a fitting way to end an almost-two hour walk through her career as she departed the stage.
Grant's voice has always had a flannel pajamas and worn slippers feel to it. It's comforting and, on a chilly March evening, is the perfect antidote to the waning few last weeks of winter.
Photos and Review by Brian M. Lumley