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MercyMe, Crowder: too good for the crowd to spoil

Microsoft Theater, Los Angeles, April 5, 2019

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

Near the end of MercyMe's headlining performance, the band went into its signature song, "I Can Only Imagine." It's a beautiful lyric, filled with imagery of meeting Jesus in heaven. One would, uh, imagine this would be that point in the night where patrons lifted their hands and worshipped while the band played.

Not so quick, buddy. No, most of these folks quickly took out their cellphones and videoed the moment, instead of simply experiencing it. That just wasn't right. Nevertheless, audience foolishness couldn't spoil a night filled with so much overwhelmingly encouraging music.

Songs like "Flawless" speak to the difficulties we all have in measuring up to societal standards. God sees us differently, though, which is reassuring. He looks at us through the eyes of love. The group's set mixed things up nicely, too, including well-placed upbeat inclusions like "Shake" and "Happy Dance."

Lead singer Bart Millard acted the part of the friendly host, working self-deprecating humor into his song introductions. He's also a fine singer, displaying a lot of power in his voice when that was required.

MercyMe doesn't try to be hip or cool. This group won't ever earn any trendiness points. In this band, though, fans find a group of musicians that seemingly empathize with and understand what it's like to live the Christian life in our increasingly complicated modern world. That's a rare thing.

MercyMe was preceded by a well-received set from Crowder. David Crowder has continued to grow in leaps and bounds since his days fronting the David Crowder Band. His current sound is a likeable mixture of blues, country and soul with a little bit of rap.

Tonight's highlight arrived when a stagehand brought out an old styled microphone, the one bluegrass acts use, so he and his group could gather around it and sing an acoustic version of "How He Loves." Crowder closed is set with an energetic cover of Hank Williams' "I Saw the Light." What most exciting about Crowder's new sounds is how he can play authentic American music yet keep it clearly worshipful. This was especially exemplified when Crowder sat down at the piano to perform the gospel-y "Red Letters."

Micah Tyler opened the evening with a brief set that mirrored MercyMe's approach of incorporating plenty of encouragement. Tyler also added a touch of humor by showing a video of himself in triplicate, referring to this trio as his band. This "band" accompanied him on multiple songs.

The best Christian concerts are those ones where you forget you're at a show and feel like you're in church. Some in this audience rudely reminded us we were actually at a contemporary concert. Let's hope these people wouldn't get out their cellphones for the singing of "I Could Only Imagine" in church. Thankfully, the music this night was too good to be spoiled by knuckleheaded behavior.

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