Stone Mountain, Georgia Concert Review

Steve Busey

Saturday June 28th was a wonderful Spirit filled evening in Stone Mountain, GA. Must have been a thousand people in a beautiful new church (which could probably have held 1500 comfortably). The show started on time with Rich coming out to introduce Mitch McVicker, who did 3 or 4 of his own songs, about 20 minutes worth. Mitch pointed out that most of his songs turned out to be about love. ("I guess I'm in a songwriting rut... ;^}") Keep your eyes open for this guy's CD when it comes out next year.

Then as the sunset beamed through the large arched windows, Rich and the band came in (7 musicians altogether, including Rich and Mitch) and began an extended instrumental jam, with Rich on the dulcimer, which went right into Awesome God. Open your show with your biggest song and a standing ovation? What do you do for an encore?? Over three hours later, we found out... ;^}

As you can imagine, the crowd spent at least half the show on their feet clapping and singing along (there were spots where the band would just stop and let the crowd sing for a minute before joining back in). In fact, at the midway break, he had the audience split in two, one side singing a line, the other side echoing it. He walked off the stage with the audience left singing. We'd probably still be there singing if the emcee hadn't come out and plugged the shirts, CDs and Compassion packets in the lobby. Prior to the break, Rich gave an impassioned talk about Compassion USA (which focuses on Native American Indian and inner city urban programs). You could have heard a pin drop as he related some of his first hand accounts and stories of Compassion involvement. After the break, he came out and reported that last year, the Atlanta concert had the worst showing for Compassion sponsorships, this time after the break, they were tied for the best showing. And there were more people signing up after the show when I picked up mine.

As for music, in addition to Mitch, the band included a three man "power trio" called This Train. They did 4 songs by themselves in the first set. A very high energy rock trio: guitar, drums and standup bass. Very funny guys. ("You may thing we're weird, but we're gonna spend eternity together, so you may as well start liking us now!") Tunes with lines like "I'll love you whether you like it or not" or their love song, "Monstertruck", and a tune inspired by Mr. Rogers ("..or can I call you Fred?"). At one point they talked about supporting "artists who make records for a living, or in our case, artists who make records." Then they did one of their favorite old spirituals, " may not recognize it at first...", which was "I Saw The Light". The crowd was on their feet for all four numbers. Their CD is titled "You're Soaking In It".

After the midway break, Rich came out and did a new unaccompanied vocal song about Jesus as a homeless man. After that got everyone back in their seats, he let Mitch do a couple more numbers, then they did some songs from Rich's new play "Canticle of the Plains" about St Frank of Wichita in the 1800's, based on St Francis of Assisi. The rest of the show was all vintage RM songs, with musicians coming and going with each song. (It seemed like the musician-instrument arrangement changed with each song.) When they did "Screen Door" (an a capella number with kind of a hambone rhythm), they brought a long table up on stage, and the five singers stood shoulder to shoulder. Rich started with a stack of five plastics cups in front of him. They then went into a choreographed routine of hand clapping, table slapping and cup flipping until all the cups were at the other side of the table, all while singing the song. Very impressive! (That's the only picture I took all night, hope it comes out)

Beaker showed up (apparently lives in Atlanta?) and did "Let Mercy Lead" with Rich, a song Rich apparently wrote for Beaker's son, who was also there. Rich gave another "speech" near the end of the second half, about a lot of things, state of CCM, of Christians in general ("it's not enough to be 'blessed' anymore, you have to be 'anointed'. Being a Christian is becoming wetter and wetter..."), government "aid", poked fun at some denominations and himself ("I once thought about joining a monastery, but I'm too chicken to be a Catholic, much less a Franciscan"). In the first half of the show, Rich introduced "Ready For The Storm" with the Irish sailor story. He finished the second half "speech" with the end of the sailor story, and led right into "Creed".

The big closing number was a medley with the crowd singing three parts, from "I'm Gonna Sing, I'm Gonna Shout", "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" and "Saints Go Marching In". Then Rich said he had one more song, and started "God be with you 'til we meet again..." and as the crowd finished the benediction, Rich and the band disappeared from the stage, once again avoiding a major ovation. All told almost 3 and a half hours, which, to borrow an expression from a friend, "blessed our socks off"... (Rich's too, apparently, as he spent most of the evening barefooted!) Catch him if you can.

Review by Steve Busey

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