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Wednesday Worship in Review: Music That Erases the Distance

By PaulT / December 19, 2017

It’s early in the morning, but I’m still reeling from the worship project that we recorded last night at Lakewood. Among the things known going in were that there simply wasn’t a shortage of new tunes to unleash to the world. Dare I say it, but a new CD is overdue in my mind. This will be the first recording with the Lakewood lineup at the new location. Are we still calling it new? Dunno. I’ll have to check.

But what wasn’t known was this: would there be an eventual DVD made of this? Would it be broadcast over the internet? Would it capture the casual or formal side of Lakewood?

Answering these completely out of order: there was webcast for this one. If you missed it, your life just might be lacking a bit for it. But fear not, the project will actually be released earlier than announced. Duncan Dodds stated that it would be released mid-October, with Joel clarifying later on that it would be released alongside the book (I presume exclusively) for WalMart. My cap goes off to the sound team at Lakewood as they work to finish the production of this in what seems like warp speed. Seriously, there’s about 50 days or so to turn this around into product. That’s a tall order.

I’m a bit doubtful that the video from this night will be made into a DVD. Just my hunch. There were maybe 6,000ish people there, which is huge for a summer Wednesday. Not a lot of cameras working the audience and the lighting was pretty low outside of the stage. Not that I wouldn’t suggest it be made into a DVD, though. Heck, I’d buy it.

As for the casual vs. formal debate, I’m glad to report that Cindy donned the stage in blue jeans and the band was shorn of all ties. It was, indeed, very casual. Again, that’s a slight clue that maybe it doesn’t end up as DVD as well as my own rational for preferring that they do just that. I headed out of the office as soon as possible in order to both get a good seat in case of a massive crowd and also to soak up the warmup music a little. During the final warmup, Larry the piano guy seems to be taking my casual preference to heart as he wore a bright yellow shirt and cargo shorts. Israel, for his part, had on blue jeans. Not a tie to be seen among the band. I’m thinking the show would be pretty darn good for my taste if they performed it just like they were. Probably just as well that I’m not left in charge of such decisions. Needless to say: casual … yay!

By the time I noticed the camera guys were going through their own warmups (and hence – webcast), I had a good feeling about the night. The choir was filled to capacity. It’s not often that our normally easy-to-identify Stephen Jackson gets lost in a crowd like he did this night. It was great to see a lot of singers I miss by being a rarity on Sundays. Caught a few that I’d not seen in a long time, including my favorite redhead choir girl. Also caught a lot of choir members joining us in the audience. Heck, even Michael Mellett, the Choir Director, was taking it in a few rows in front of me.

Reminds me – we have the best ushers known to mankind. Even though I got there early, a lot of other people had even more convenient schedules. Tons of saved seats up close, with a lot of the regulars claiming territory faster than a ’49 who’s just found gold. I put myself in the mercy of a kindly usher for the best onesie in the house and I end up on row five, just off center. I definitely need to make it a point to thank that usher one more time (at least) this weekend.

Back to the preshow – in taking inventory of the band, I noticed with a good sense of pleasure that Joel Camey would be on guitar for the night. As great a bass player as he is, I’ll confess my preference for the enthusiasm that seems to be more demonstrable with a lighter instrument dangling from his shoulder. The bass player (I’ve not been nosey enough to inquire about a name for him – my bad) and Joel were bouncing around on the first song, as it was. Both of them had an infectious enthusiasm that was greatly enjoyed. The rest of the band seemed to be enjoying themselves like never before, also. From the front of the stage to the back of it, everyone looked like they brought their best for this night.

That brings us to our opening …

Seriously, I don’t know what to pull out from the service that really does the entire night justice. Just about every song was better than previously done. There was a great sharing of the stage with each singer. I note in the setlist which singer is featured. It doesn’t really come close to summing up what you get out of each of song, however – just which singer gets a bit more run in the song to highlight a different tone over the course of the songs. If none is noted, it’s pretty much an eaqually-shared endeavor by Cindy, Israel, DaDra & Stephen.

Michael’s intro in the video above is one that I’ve grown accustomed to. Sure, it’s a catchy guitar part, but it’s also a great upbeat song that the intro serves as a great call to action. Lyrically, DaDra’s performance in “Always Welcome” was nothing short of stunning. I remember how much I used to love hearing Cindy hit a lot of those soaring notes toward the end. But hearing DaDra hit them serves as a pleasant reminder that those notes weren’t supposed to be reachable by her. So hearing her hit them is a great reminder that God still works miracles. If you can’t at least fight back a tear during that, there might be something wrong with you.

Cindy’s voice still has a great way of filling up the entire sanctuary, though. Her voice seemed a bit more prominent in the mix, which I love. I’m convinced that when archaeologists dig up Lakewood a thousand years from now, they’ll find trace echoes of Cindy’s singing in there. “It Is Well With My Soul” starts off with some great acapella on Cindy’s part and it’s great to hear her treatment of a classic like that. But I’m still partial to her version of “Love So Amazing” since her texture seems to add a whole new instrument to the song.

Instrumentally, there were some nice touches in the performance. A few more Michael Hodge guitar fills that might have been used before, but seemed to be lost in the mix on occasion. Some great extended spots for the horn section. A few new keyboard moments to add some concert-style texture to the night. And, of course, Jonathan Camey’s perfect timing on the drums.

We did manage to get a nice encore song from the team, also. I don’t think many of us were ready to let them go without that. I could have just as well made it through another entire performance.

As promised, here’s the setlist for the show. I’m sure there were a number of great details I’ve overlooked. For now, I’m going to have to chalk up any omissions to just being tired by now. The CD comes out in October. I’ll go ahead and call it required listening.

1 – Everywhere That I Go
2 – I’m Still Standing
3 – Free to Worship
(feat. Da’Dra Crawford Greathouse)
4 – Always Welcome
(feat. Stephen Crawford, Da’Dra Crawford Greathouse)
5 – It Is Well With My Soul
(feat. Da’Dra Crawford Greathouse)
6a – At the Cross
6b – Joel’s Prayer
6c – At the Cross (reprise)
7 – Mighty to Save
8 – We Have Overcome
(feat. Stephen Crawford)
9 – Turn It Around
(feat. Israel Houghton)
10 – Love So Amazing
(feat. Cindy Cruse Ratcliff)
11 – Your Love
(feat. Cindy Cruse Ratcliff)
12 – Offering
13 – Say So
(feat. Israel Houghton)
14 – Favor of the Lord
(feat. pretty much everyone)
Encore – Lord You Are Good
(feat. Lakewood Church)

Oh, last thing here … a personal note of gratitude to the band and choir and every sound team member that worked (and will work) behind the scenes to make this night the memorable experience that it was. A lot of practice and preparation goes into a project like this and no small turn deserves to go unnoticed. Your efforts help nudge the boundaries of the kingdom further and further and make the space we enjoy in it something that people like me look forward to with a sense of expectation that – believe it or not – I cannot put into words.

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