Friday, August 23, 2013

Amy Grant at Irving Plaza

Amy Grant was born November 25, 1960, in Augusta, Georgia, the youngest of four sisters. In 1967, her family relocated to Nashville, Tennessee, where she is still based. There, while in high school in 1976, Grant wrote her first song. She was offered a recording contract five weeks before her 16th birthday. In 1977, she recorded her first album, which was released in the spring of 1978, one month before her high school graduation. Since then, from her original Christian base to the later pop audience, Grant has sold over 30 million units worldwide, won six Grammy Awards and 25 Gospel Music Association Dove Awards, and had the first Christian album ever to be certified platinum by the Recording Industry of America Association. Grant's 15th and newest album, How Mercy Looks from Here, was released on May 14, 2013.

Although Grant was honored with a star on Hollywood Walk of Fame as recently as 2005 for her contributions to the entertainment industry, it is clear that she has not retained the popularity she enjoyed in the 1980s. Back then, she headlined Radio City Music Hall; now she performed to a half empty Irving Plaza, the first time she ever played a stand-up club, she noted from the stage. Nevertheless, tonight’s concert gained her back the crown of “Queen of Christian Pop.” While remaining true to herself and her musical identity, Grant seemed to reinvent herself for two hours and fifteen minutes, including an encore of six songs. She scored well both with low key versions of songs she originally recorded as electric and with rocking versions of songs that were originally more folky. That her voice cracked from time to time (her backup vocalists sang better than she did) seemed to humanize her songs. Not exactly a greatest hits show (she did not sing some of her biggest hits), she sang much of what her audience wanted to hear, interlaced with new songs. Most of her directly Christian songs, included “Thy Word” and “El Shaddai,” were grouped at the end of the set. From music to between-song chatter, the entire evening felt endearingly homespun. My best concert buddy, a secular Jew, thought it was a great concert and I, the observant Catholic, agreed.