The Live Experience
Every once in a while a person gets to experience what will soon be known as a pivotal moment in the history of music and art. I believe that I have experienced this. It might never happen again in my lifetime, but as I sat mesmerized by the haunting and beautiful lyrical artistry painted by Michael and Lisa Gungor, I knew in my heart of hearts that this was something greater than I had ever experienced before.
Few times in my life have I ever been blown away, let alone engaged by, a performance that was so masterfully crafted and at the same time an offering of worship so pure and “right.” I’m not one of those guys who thinks performance and worship have to live in separate worlds. I’ve always held to the notion that performance CAN be worship and that we as performers should offer our performances as acts of worship. There is a fine line, though. A lot of times performances fall short of the heart of worship and leave us empty.
Not so with the live performance of Beautiful Things. In a room of about 150, there was not one person that wasn’t captivated by the musical journey that Gungor laid before us and invited us to travel. Throughout the performance, the energy in the room was tangible.
Using everything from classical guitar to banjo to keytar to a live string section to screaming rock guitars, Gungor used the familiar to weave together a musical tapestry that displayed a landscape of musical artistry that has not been traveled by many, if any at all. Elements that we’ve all seen and heard most of our lives and wouldn’t consider new were interwoven into a beautiful, new kind of worship music that captured the hearts and minds of those in the room.
When the last song had concluded the glory of God filled the room. There was a weight, almost like a cloud in the room. We all knew that it was a great performance, but above and beyond that God was with us in a manifest way. The standing ovation lasted for almost 5 minutes. And although we were applauding Gungor, ultimately we were applauding God for allowing us to be a part of His brilliant shining in and through Gungor that day.
Never before have I, as a trained composer and musician, been mesmerized by a performance as such. If you get a chance to experience this performance live, don’t miss out on the opportunity.
The CD: Beautiful Things
Most worship leaders are familiar with Michael Gungor. Even if you’ve never heard any of his recordings, you’ve probably sung a song of his the last decade. He co-wrote “Friend of God” with Israel Houghton (who makes a guest appearance on Beautiful things) and has more songwriting credit under his belt at age 29 than most of us would know what to do with in a lifetime.
If I could describe this recording with one word it would be “journey.” Michael writes, arranges, performs, gathers musicians, and ultimately records a journey. Beautiful Things is indeed an album of beautiful things.
The cd opens with a beautiful, classical guitar intro that builds to a driving rock anthem that ebbs and flows creating a wonderful tension as the song moves through. You’ll want to sit back and crank the volume on this one. The lyrics draw the listener in from the first word sung.
Each song paints a mesmerizing picture and carries the listener to a place of reverent and thoughtful contemplation.
What I am amazed by is the simple, repetitive nature of most of the songs. We’re not talking about extremely wordy songs here. Michael captures depth and beauty in a phrase and weaves it into a musical tapestry that sweeps the lyric straight to the heart of the listener.
Lyrically, each song is amazing. There is no “weak” song on this album. Songs that stand out: Dry Bones, Beautiful Things, You Have Me, Cannot Keep You, Please Be My Strength, Late Have I Loved You.
This is definitely a turning point in “worship” music. A pivotal moment in the way that worship artists express worship. The only thing that I’m having a hard time with is how this fits into the whole of worship music for the church. There is NO doubt in my mind that this was indeed a CORPORATE worship experience when I saw them live. There was not a person in the room who wasn’t engaging God throughout this performance.
However, the average church might have a hard time integrating this into “normal” worship. I definitely feel like a youth or college worship band could easily integrate any song from this recording into their corporate worship gatherings.
That being said, there is something here. Something new. Something fresh. Something that could shake the foundations of “normal” and push us into a new movement. I’m there. I recognize a new thing springing forth in a landscape of dry routine and status quo. Gungor has burst onto the “worship” scene with this album. Not in a commercial sense, but in a genuine “WHAT IN THE WORLD IS THIS?” kind of way.
I do believe this recording is a generation gap bridger. Young and old will connect to the masterful performance captured on this cd. Gungor moves through classical stylings to in your face rock to lilting folk to gritty blues and does them all well. This is no cheesy variety show though, it’s a fusion of familiar resulting in a rebirth of sorts. A new offering of worship that will engage the listener and draw them into the journey.
Even if you’re not able to integrate any of the songs from this recording into your repertoire, you MUST HAVE this album personally. It will inspire you to greater leadership, greater creativity, greater expression, greater contemplation, and ultimately just greater things.