Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh
Contemporary Christian worship music has a bit of a bad reputation -- sometimes rightfully so. At its worst, it can be repetitious and trite. Lyrics are also many times extremely light on solid theology. So much so, in fact, listeners may not be able to determine if a song is directed toward God or at some girl/boy romantic partner. Phil Wickham, from San Diego, though, is an exception to this accusatory indictment. His songs are both lyrically creative and Biblically sound. He performed many of his most familiar songs at a sold-out show in a large Orange County church and asserted his place as one of the genre's very best.
Seacoast Grace is ironically located right next to a racetrack. In fact, attendees can see the layout of the track from the church's parking lot. Nevertheless, attendees definitely had church this evening. Wickham brought along two other quality artists (Josh Baldwin and Cody Carnes), but instead of having each artist perform opening sets, lead vocals were rotated throughout this two hour-plus show.
The many highlights began with the triumphant "This Is Amazing Grace," which found Wickham bouncing around the stage like a hyperactive teenager. With his jeans and tennis shoe attire, he even looked like a teen. Best of all, though, was "1,000 Names," which lyrically spotlights many of the different Biblical names and descriptions of God. Before calling it a night, Wickham performed "Hymn of Heaven," also the title for this tour.
Baldwin, who was second billed, contrasted with Wickham in his laidback, demeaner and somewhat scruffy outfit. He sang "Evidence," one of the most popular worship songs in recent years. Special surprise guest Carnes was a cowriter on "The Blessing," and it served as a kind of musical benediction. As wonderful as it was, it was not the evening's last song. All performers gathered to sing Wickham's "Living Hope," which incorporated the traditional hymn, "How Great Thou Art," for the conclusion.
Sure, guys like Wickham are victims of the guilt by association fallacy. One that suggests all worship songs and worship artists are pretty much alike. However tonight, Wickham stood high above the pack. He's a special artist, with special songs, which made for a worshipfully memorable night.