Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh
For many attending one of Amy Grant's SoCal tour stops, this concert offered a way to reconnect with a culturally relatable and likeminded performer. Multiple folks in this primarily middle-aged audience were raised in Christian homes, participated in church youth groups and have now grown into greying adulthood. Grant, too, shares these religious roots.
Also, like Grant, many attendees surely received a few bumps and bruises along the way. Yet, through it all, they've held onto their Christian faith. Similarly, Grant's music, even with a few stylistic and lyrical content twists and turns marking her path, is – and will always be – a Christian music performer. An icon if you will.
Her extensive 27-song show tonight featured almost entirely older material. However, most all these songs were significant road makers for her audience's faith journey, which made for a warmly comforting opportunity to take stock and be thankful for heaven's help along life's strange and wonderful trip.
It's difficult now to comprehend why many of Grant's pop hits from the '80s were so controversial at the time of their release. For instance, her smash "Baby, Baby" was once considered evidence of Grant's sellout to the evil secular pop music world, but now comes off as nothing more than a fun, danceable pop tune.
Back in the '80s, though, Grant was sometimes cruelly expected to be a pioneering missionary to the pop charts, carrying the gospel banner all the way to number one on the Billboard charts. As Grant explained between songs, though, she began as just a girl that loved James Taylor and Elton John song and also enjoyed singing about her Jesus. Yes, she sang love songs this evening, like "Good for Me" and "Every Heartbeat," but she mixed these romantic expressions in with more overt spiritual messages.
Some among the crowd erupted into full-on worship mode and raising their hands heavenward when Grant sang "Better Than a Hallelujah," "El Shaddai" and "Sing Your Praise to the Lord." This spiritual subset was but one side of Grant's musical personality, though. She also sang "Ask Me," which is about a woman trying to understand her faith in God during life's most difficult circumstances. Yes, she came to sing her praises to the lord, but she also didn't want to be so heavenly minded, she was also no earthly good.
Grant took the stage dressed elegantly in a black dress and high heel shoes (which she soon discarded to perform barefooted). She sometimes accompanied herself on acoustic guitar and was backed by a seven-piece group that included two female vocalists. She spoke a few times, and always did so with tangible compassion and sincere empathy. She even joked that the first time she played SoCal was when she performed at Hollywood High School, where another out-of-towner, Elvis Costello, once famously appeared.
Grant's setlist was smartly constructed, as she began with the perfect opener "Stay for A While," which was like a 'Y'all come in and join us' invitation. She capped the show appropriately with "I Will Remember You," one the encores. For an artist that was thrown into the music business as a teen, Grant has grown into quite a wonderfully mature and relevant representation of Christian art. It wasn't always easy for her, but she's come through her trials and tribulations shining brightly.