Saturday show like lively Sunday service

Sunday, May 8, 2005

Saturday night's concert at the Show Me Center featuring Christian artists Watermark, Selah and Michael W. Smith was billed as just that -- a concert. But "musical worship service" is a better description of the event.

Throughout the night many of the 2,366 concert-goers raised their hand to the air and shouted "amen," creating the atmosphere of a lively and spiritual service on a Sunday morning.

The evening started with Watermark, a husband-and-wife duo specializing in contemporary inspirational acoustic songs with a folk flavor. The set was brutally short -- less than 30 minutes -- even for an opening act.

However, the few songs Watermark did get to play showcased the versatile and powerful voice of singer Christy Nockels, as well as the pop sensibilities found in the duo's songwriting.

Watermark did an excellent job in warming up the crowd for the next act, Selah. At times, Selah was more boisterous than the previous group, going through Southern Gospel-inspired piano-driven romps taken from church hymns. The crowd-pleaser was the group's version of "You Lift Me Up," an inspirational song that gained mainstream fame after a recording by Josh Groban.

It seemed a bit of a cheat that the band's guitar, bass and drums were played on backing tracks instead of by live musicians, but the crowd didn't seem to mind, singing along when beckoned and clapping their hands together on several rhythm-driven numbers.

By the time Michael W. Smith greeted his fans, they were more than ready. Smith was backed by a band of three guitarists, a bassist, a drummer and synth player, all of whom executed polished pop with a rock edge. The songs showed off Smith's ability to craft pop hooks, and he was the consummate performer, making sure to draw the crowd in with every beat.

Smith's songs of religious inspiration and awakening brought much of the crowd to its feet -- a fitting reaction to a songwriter and performer who helped shape the genre in its early years and has adapted his sound and presentation to suit the times and new, younger audiences.

msanders@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

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