Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh
Danny Gokey and Natalie Grant's annual Christmas tour together amounted to a tale of two sets. The first half of their show together primarily included secular holiday songs about snow, Santa and other such seasonal stuff like that. The second half, however, focused more on the spiritual elements of the season. Backed by a small band and a few backup singers, Gokey and Grant alternated taking lead vocals throughout the evening in front of a sold-out Orange County audience. Both are strong singers and performed enthusiastically, if not always completely sincerely, throughout.
The first set, although performed well, just didn't always feel like a good fit for these decidedly Christian artists. Gospel singers have trouble sounding sincere while announcing how Santa Claus is coming to town soon. Gokey pulled off his best Nat King Cole tribute with "The Christmas Song," but at the end of the day, he's still not Nat King Cole. Even the pair's patter about Hallmark movies came off rehearsed and unspontaneous. Although this half was good, it still seemed just a little too glitzy for a church performance.
After an intermission, both performers came out and began right away working in some of their gospel hits. Gokey had the audience singing along on the chorus to "Stand In Faith." Then when Grant sang "King of the World," this song kicked off a time of worship where Gokey and Grant led the audience in a series of mostly familiar worship songs. While not especially Christmas-y, these selections nevertheless fit the performers so much better, making it a much more fulfilling set. Then again, the manger scene included worship of Jesus, so worshiping Jesus was appropriate.
The church, as a whole, has come a long way when it comes to accepting secular Christmas music. Santa is no great threat to Jesus, after all, as some may have once had us believe. However, Christian artists are so much more believable whenever singing about their faith. After the sometimes lackluster first half, it started to seem as though this was going to end up an unmemorable night. But the powerful second half more than made up for where the first half fell short.