The concert is in a tiny church repurposed as a concert venue with a stained glass taking up half the back wall, 3 shaded chandeliers, and 5 windows along the north wall with an interesting fish scale shimmery iridescence to them; great for diffusing the candle light from tables around the edges. Two fans spin up high in the ridge line of the vaulted ceiling. There are these huge, dark wooden sliding/folding doors block off the fellowship hall and make me curious. Sara Groves and her husband own this venue, and they introduce Webb.
What he thinks people are coming to the show for: "He can talk about politics and vent about the church, and maybe he'll swear!" He calls the songs on the album "songs without certainty."
The stage is small even though it pretty much takes up the entire short wall. Even so, Webb seems small standing up there. He's a tiny man, compact and fine-boned with his shaved head gleaming. Kenny Meeks is with him, a tall, sort of rawboned and rangy looking fellow who plays bass now and did the same on the record (along with producing it and providing the background vocals back in the day). This guy is kind of a legend in Christian music. I feel like I may have seen him at Alive '88 or something years ago.
They are making things up a little. This is the first stop on the limited tour, and they've never actually practiced together. You might not know this if they didn't tell everyone. You wouldn't likely care whether you noticed or not.
1 Nobody Loves Me
"I'm really glad I have a record from 10 years ago that I can still sing all of today."
"I don't disagree with a word of it."
"The truth is never sexy/ So it's not an easy sell.""Lord knows I've got something to say about every one of these, but I'm going to try not to," he says. And I think, "Are you kidding?! That's what we're here for. If we just wanted to hear the album, we could do that any time. Talk a lot!" But his voice is a little rough, and he needs a lot of water, so I'll understand if he has to talk less as the night goes on.
"So I'll do whatever it takes/to squeeze us into this wedding gown./ I'll say words that rattle your nerves/ words like sin and faith alone, now/"
2 She Must and Shall Go Free
He says this is an orphaned hymn, one where no melody was ever written for the words, so they just used one of the 4 basic tunes. He decided to give it a tune.
3 Take to the World
It's based on an Episcopal benediction and is the third song on the album . . . He points out he might arrange the album a little differently with his current knowledge.
"Take to the world this rare, relentless grace.""If you know Caedmon's Call from the radio, you never heard any of my songs."
"Know you must become what you want to save/ 'Cause that's still the way that He takes to the world."
"When Kenny Meeks makes a mistake, it's called a new revelation."
4 Nothing (Without You)
The pews are going to make my hip limping sore tomorrow.
"Kenny plays one note better than I play 10."
"The word 'Christian,' when applied to anything except a person, is a marketing term, a term used to lead consumers to the thing they want to consume. It can't mean what they want it to mean."
"This song originally had about 12 verses" because he was trying to do a song about the life of Jesus. He edited it down to 5 verses, in the end, and I want to hear the other 7, too. "How do you edit the life of Jesus?" he asks rhetorically.
6 Wedding Dress
The first single he wrote for this first record (but at the time, he thought it was a Caedmon's Call song).
"Once you write it, there's no going back."
"It is still an offensive song for me to sing. "
"It's based on some of the most offensive parts of the Bible, which are there to offend us."
"Ezekiel and Hosea are designed to make people uncomfortable."
"I knew there would be some blushing."
"If I got up to read Ezekiel 16, I could clear the room."
"The comfort I got was that the most offensive parts were from the Bible."
"This was the song that got the album banned."
"They have every right to censor what they sell.. . . I'm comforted by the thought that the last thing to go would be the Bibles, so the offensive content is there in every store."
He talks about how some people write to him as if he is angry and bitter and cynical. And I'm surprised by how very much I need for him to not be bitter or cynical. And he's not. Maybe it's just his stage persona, but I really needed it anyway. He says that cynicism is what happens when you give up hope. And he hasn't given up. He still has hope. He still believes we can be better than we are, and he still believes God loves us even when we aren't.