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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Phil Keaggy with Ashley Cleveland


     It's only been a year, but Phil Keaggy is back at The McPherson Opera House to perform and this time he brought along a friend, Ashley Cleveland, to open for him.

     What can I say about a Phil Keaggy show that hasn't already been said in a previous review? Keaggy is professional, fun, entertaining, and his songs touch you in ways that aren't apparent right at first. I guarantee that one or more songs will touch you to your core at one of his live shows and you'll find yourself humming them long after the show is over.

     I don't think that those attending the show know just what goes into the sound check before the show. The performer comes in off the road or a long flight, as Ashley Cleveland did from Nashville. It wasn't a straight shot to Wichita and even after she arrived there, she had a drive in unfamiliar surroundings to get to the venue in McPherson. Once she arrived at the building and had some time to acclimate herself and speak with Keaggy, she was fresh as a daisy once again and ready to get to work.

     Out came the flashy candy colored guitars in turquoise and purple, placed on guitar stands ready for the nights entertainment. She tuned up, explained to the sound technician how she wanted her mics set and about the special quirks of both her guitars. She picked up the turquoise guitar and ran through "Walk In Jeruselem" and then "If I Had A Hammer" which she put her own twist on. I loved it and wished she had had time to sing the entire song in rehearsal. Then she picked up the purple guitar and played "Born to Preach the Gospel". Cleveland is very confident and knows her guitars quirks well, and her sound check was a quick, one and done.

     At this point Keaggy came back to the stage and the two rehearsed a duet that they sang during Keaggy's portion of the show, "Ezekiel". Changes were made with the way both voices would sound on the song. It was interesting watching Cleveland and Keaggy collaborate on the song before they presented the finished product in front of an audience.

     For Keaggy's part of the sound check, which actually occurred first as Cleveland hadn't arrived at the venue yet, a lot of time went into the peddles that Keaggy uses to provide additional accompaniment. One of the peddles kept popping when he'd step on it. Adjustments were made but nothing seemed to help, so that peddle was disconnected and not used.

     Keaggy sang several songs during his soundcheck. I'm not sure I have the title of this first one correct, but during the refrain the words were "La Love You", also "Fearless Love" and then it was "Anytime At All". Hearing portions of all this great music but not getting to hear the entire piece was almost painful. It really whetted my appetite for the concert.

     It's interesting to attend a soundcheck and then see the finished product on stage for the full concert. There is so much work that goes into a live show, between the performers, sound engineers and other collaborators to make it look so easy, so polished. If everyone has done their job, it just looks to the audience like a couple of folks showed up with guitars, hopped up on stage and started playing. On this night, that's exactly how it looked, effortless.

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