derek webb performs unreleased caedmon’s call track, ‘god’s hometown’ —OR— a scary tale of christian subculture
we had the pleasure of taking a quick trip to memphis a couple days ago to see derek webb and sandra mccracken perform at the famous levitt shell (the site of what many historians consider the first “rock n’ roll” show featuring elvis presley…for you trivia nerds…). the concert was free and the weather was great, so all the planets seemed to align (i’ll get to where things got out of whack a little later…). webb is a great live act because of the conviction he brings to his performances and—even with his lone guitar—he brought just what i expected.
one of the highlights was hearing him perform a yet-to-be-released caedmon’s call song called god’s hometown. he’s producing their album and guesstimated that the album—raising up the dead—would be released sometime this summer. the track was actually really good and i’m now curious to see if that kind of sound is predominant on the entire album or if it’s more of a one-off derek webb kind of thing.
either way, i recorded thanks to my magic phone and while the recording is far from ideal or even great, you can get a feel for the song (and the people sitting around us who took it upon themselves to carry on a conversation the entire show…who were, ironically, some of webb’s family members…).
so…in other related news…
the event was free because it was the first annual “easter eve” event put on by independent presbyterian church in memphis. in essence, this was their equivalent to having a church picnic or some similar church-wide event. while it was very much open to the public, it was, of course, highly attended by their own people.
ironically, despite the fact that i’m a pastor, i’ve been largely outside the bounds of consistent christian/church subculture for quite awhile. even when i was in seminary, i wasn’t really immersed in it. so that made the concert all that much more creepy and smothering.
don’t get me wrong, there were a lot of really great people there. i’m sure the vast majority of people there genuinely want to follow jesus and do great things in the world. but that still doesn’t mean that many of them have no problem with wearing a rip-off kit-kat shirt that, instead of having the standard kit-kat logo, says “king of kings.” really?
without poking too much fun at everyone there (and honestly, i think it’s a fair critique of the church that may lend itself to a conversation about the church’s general irrelevancy), the main issue that christen and i both had was the setlist. honestly, it was just really bizarre. now, of course, all the songs are songs we love, but it featured virtually nothing off his latest album, stockholm syndrome or my favorite album of his, mockingbird. hmm…why could that be? is it just coincidence that those are his two “controversial” albums?
instead of those albums, it highlighted his first album (from 8 years ago…). here’s the setlist with the albums denoted after the songs:
1. heaven (stockholm syndrome)
2. a love that’s stronger than our fear (the ringing bell)
3. nobody loves me (she must & shall go free)
4. a new law (mockingbird)
5. i wanna marry you all over again (rb)
6. god’s hometown (caedmon’s)
7. dance (caedmon’s)
8. cobra con (ss)
9. she must and shall go free (sm&sgf)
10. wedding dress (sm&sgf)
11. lover (sm&sgf)
so, only 3 songs combined from the two aforementioned albums. so you’re on tour in support of your latest album and you only perform 2 tracks from it? your most “commercially” successful album is mockingbird and you perform a single track from it?
now, webb explained that he was unable to perform many of the tracks from stockholm syndrome because he was limited to his acoustic guitar, but i’m just gonna call him out on that. i think he could do it. i think he could arrange them in ways that are acoustic-friendly. but i don’t think those things were really factors at all, quite frankly.
i think the presbyterian church wanted 2 things: no songs that may push the envelope & primarily songs from what many see as the calvinist musical manifesto, she must & shall go free. i’m not certain how explicitly he was told those things, but i have little doubt those things were communicated in some manner. i just think webb needed a quick and seamless way to explain why he wasn’t performing the new material (which, certainly, many people particularly wanted to hear).
there’s a limit to my criticism because it’s worth stating clearly that this is all speculation, but i just can’t escape the feeling that my description is accurate. let’s just say that he truly couldn’t perform the new material. ok, fine. but why no mockingbird? that stuff is 99% acoustic guitar-driven. i have to think it’s because of the content.
so, all in all, i’m not overly critical of the concert. i mean, we had a great time. it was still derek webb. it was still his music. it was still a great show. but, nevertheless, christian subculture prevailed again by killing all that is the nitty gritty truth and beauty of webb’s catalogue.
how about next time, derek?