Derek Webb Live in Kansas City (Concert Review) ~ BitterSweetLife

Friday, March 07, 2008

Derek Webb Live in Kansas City (Concert Review)

45 minutes into our 10 minute drive, we were becoming convinced that the forces of darkness did not want us to see Derek Webb playing live at Shoal Creek Community Church. Either that or Yahoo maps. Regardless of who exactly was responsible, we decided to screw 'em and go anyway. So after an hour of mistaken routes, single lane highways, non-existent exits, road construction, two-mile-U-turns, and some very childish venting, we arrived at the concert 25 minutes late and nonchalantly sauntered in.

We did the right thing. We are happy that we went to the concert instead of going somewhere to morosely drink coffee. Derek is very good in person.

Despite having been a fairly staunch fan of Derek ever since his debut with Caedmon's Call, this was the first time I'd heard him live, and he confirmed my impression that he's an immensely talented musician, even when playing acoustic guitar by himself. (I think the songwriting chops are evident to anyone who's heard his lyrics.) After the concert, I was explaining to a friend that Derek Webb's stock had gone up in my book after seeing him in person.

Throughout the relaxed set, Derek chatted at length about his songs--the rationale behind them, how they got written, the gist of their messages. I liked the fact that he played stuff as far back as "Faith My Eyes" and "Table for Two" (I used to play that one a lot) from 40 Acres by Caedmon's Call--and talked about them. Lindsay thought he should have shut up and played a few more, but for the most part, I was grateful for the chance to get a better idea of what Derek's about.

Derek Webb's first two solo albums (She Must and Shall Go Free and I See Things Upside Down) are my favorites because I think they're more unique stylistically (folk/bluegrass and experimental rock, respectively) and more varied lyrically. His last couple albums, Mockingbird and The Ringing Bell, have had more overtly political agendas, and although Derek has always been something of an activist, he's come off as increasingly preachy in my opinion--which gets kind of old.

Listening to Webb in person, I discovered that, yes, he does get kind of preachy at times, especially when talking about a holistic gospel that is physical/spiritual, doesn't overvalue "individual salvation," and doesn't hold its breath at election times. However, that stridency is offset by Derek's humility, affability, and off-the-cuff humor. Seeing him in person helped me get past his prophetic outcast persona, which he does kind of play up, and appreciate the fact that he's a passionate guy who has a lot of the same concerns I do.

Derek served up several good sound-bytes, but my favorites involved the church's relationship to culture, where he made some great points. Highlights:

  • How come "Christian" art only deals with the loftiest, most "spiritual" 2% of life? What about the rest of life, the hard, the dirty, the ugly? Artists who are Christians should feel freedom to write or depict any aspect of life that falls under God's dominion. Hint: That's everything.
  • There's a completely false idea that culture with a "Christian" label on it is innately good and pure. If anything, "Christian" culture is guaranteed to be secular, because it's being made by people who have problems, know they have problems, are seeking help with their problems, and may very well reveal those problems in their art.
  • A lot of young people are being trained in their churches to react to their cultures out of fear (Don't do this, Don't watch that, Don't go there) rather than entering with discernment to know and serve their outsider friends. This is a manipulative way to form young people, it short-circuits gospel work, and ultimately there will be fallout as children grow older and react to their wrong formation--perhaps overreact.
Lindsay and I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to hear Derek play live. He's a guy with an agenda that sometimes gets gratingly political, but he's also transparent, and I appreciate his heart for the church. As far as one-dude-with-a-guitar shows go, you won't do much better.

If you want to hear Derek Webb's newest stuff, you can listen to streaming audio from Ampersand, the EP he just released with wife Sandra McCracken (not exactly typical DW, circa 21st century, but still very good).
Person Derek Webb
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Anonymous said...

I also got lost...but I never found it. :( Glad to hear it was good. Needless to say, I was pretty pissed at mapquest.


Culture. Photos. Life's nagging questions. - BitterSweetLife