As we discussed this morning, many of Southern Gospel’s leading artists are putting on a benefit concert this evening for Tracy Stuffle. Video is streaming at www.tracystufflebenefit.com; an audio-only feed is also available at www.southerngospel.com. Let’s discuss it live!
7:08: The evening begins with a prayer, introduction of hosts Jason Crabb and Joseph Habedank, and with all participating artists singing “We Need Each Other” together.
7:16: The concert is being hosted at Christ Church Nashville; its pastor, Dan Scott, is singing several songs. He’s a surprisingly good singer.
7:21: The first headliner artist up is The Bowlings. Mike Bowling sings a classic, “I’ll Be All Right as Soon as I Touch Calvary.” It looks like group’s vocal lineup now is Mike and Kelly, their daughter Hope, and Troy Peach. Mike and Troy are both Perrys alumni.
Kelly shares some heartfelt testimony about how the same community on stage and in the audience rallied around them in 2010. (If you weren’t following the genre then, here are two posts about their bus accident.) She uses this to set up “Your Cries Have Awoken the Master.”
7:34: Gold City is up next, singing “Cast My Bread Upon the Water” and “I’m Not Giving Up.” Jerry Pelfrey is singing lead, Danny Riley is on baritone, and Tim Riley is raising the roof on bass. I’m assuming Bryan Elliott is on piano, though I haven’t seen shots with the piano in view yet. Is that former Palmetto State Quartet tenor Robert Fulton on tenor?
7:45: Karen Peck & New River starts off with “Four Days Late,” and the place comes unglued pretty much instantly. She goes down into the audience to sing “My God Will Always Be Enough”; her delivery is so heartfelt that she chokes up at several points. She nails the ending and gets a standing ovation.
7:56: An unusual configuration of The Hoppers takes the stage. Kim Hopper is on bed rest for several weeks with sinus issues so bad that she may face surgery, and her husband Dean is at her side. So Claude and Connie are holding down their usual parts; TaRanda Greene is pinch-hitting for Kim Hopper, and, none other than Joseph Habedank is filling in for Dean! Claude is featured on “If I Could Help Somebody”; Connie and (oddly, given the earlier announcement) Jason Crabb provide harmonies. Claude takes a drink in the middle of his solo; is it an intentional Marco Rubio moment? Is that why it gets the response it gets?
Connie is up next, singing “I’ve Come Too Far to Look Back.” Trust Connie to tear up the building, with testimony and singing alike! “God has never seen a hopeless case.” Tim Riley comes up for the encore.
8:15: The Booth Brothers kick off their set with an exquisite piano-and-vocals-only version of “I Will Serve Thee.” It looks like their erstwhile producer Nick Bruno is sitting in on piano. After the song, Michael Booth takes a minute to testify to God’s faithfulness in our storms. Jim Brady sings the group’s second song, “Every Cry is Heard,” another exquisite piano-and-vocals version.
8:27: Libbi Perry Stuffle is welcomed with a prolonged standing ovation. She gives a heartrendingly powerful rendition of “Through the Night.” The audience is to its feet by the bridge. This is easily the moment of the evening.
Former Perrys pianist (current Gaither Vocal Band pianist) Matthew Holt is filling in on piano. He plays a soft musical accompaniment while Libbi testifies to God’s faithfulness and gives a current update on Tracy’s health.
Then, Libbi, Joseph Habedank, and Perrys baritone Bryan Walker sing harmonies with a track of Tracy’s pre-recorded voice on “Plan of Salvation.”
8:39: Looks like this crashed the servers for the live stream again.
8:42: Looks like the traffic from Libbi’s surprise appearance was enough to crash not just the stream, but the whole site. I did get the feed back for about three seconds, to see that Leah Page (Libbi’s fill-in for the last two months) was on stage, and that the intro to the track for “If You Knew Him” was playing.
8:45: The stream is back up.
I’ll mention, in passing, that I had the chance to catch the Perrys live two days ago, last Sunday evening. Two things struck me, in particular: First, Joseph Habedank exceeded my expectations as an emcee. Though there was humor, there was maybe a little less than Tracy would bring to a live program. But, on the other hand, Joseph brought a unique songwriter’s perspective, sharing insightful insights about songs he’d written and songs he didn’t write when setting songs up. Second, the implications of the Perrys’ 2010 Song of the Year win for “If You Knew Him” had blessings for the group far beyond what they could see at the time. Since Joseph Habedank co-wrote the song and sang the feature vocal, the win for this—as well as Joseph’s other #1 hits and radio hits—gave Joseph a stature in the industry that enables him to carry the group forward in a way that someone who had just joined the group couldn’t do.
8:51: Phil Hoskins came forward to anoint Libbi and pray for Libbi and Tracy. Libbi shared that a nurse told her that, amidst all the health crises Tracy has pulled through so far, most people don’t make it as far as he has. Within a few days, the doctors will determine if Tracy will need a permanent shunt. The procedure to implement it would be very high-risk; prayer is requested that it will not be needed.
9:09: Libbi is leading the audience in “‘Tis So Sweet.”
9:15: Phil Hoskins gives an altar call.
9:23: Jason Crabb shares Perrys memories and encourages donations to help with their expenses. Online donations can be made here: http://www.tracystufflebenefit.com/donations.html
9:31: During the offering, Matthew Holt plays “Great is Thy Faithfulness” while a slideshow of classic pictures of Tracy plays on the screens.
9:40: The Isaacs kick off their set with “Walk On.” Rebecca Isaacs Bowman introduced their second song, “Waiting in the Water.” Song 3: “I Will Praise Him,” acapella.
9:55: The Collingsworth Family begins with “Fear Not Tomorrow.” They used to stage this as a ladies’ trio of Brooklyn, Courtney, and Kim Collingsworth; since the last time I saw the group stage this song, Olivia has joined to make it a foursome. If I’m not mistaken, Olivia is doubling Brooklyn’s part. Song 2: Phil Jr. sings the lead on “Just Another Rainy Day.” They closed their set with “The Healer is Here.” Though it’s an older part of their repertoire, it is such an obvious thematic fit that it made sense to pull it out for the occasion.
10:10: Dailey and Vincent brought out a special, surprise guest for their set: Ricky Skaggs. They started with “Noah Found Grace in the Eyes of the Lord.” Christian Davis was on bass. Song 2: “I Believe He Gave His Life for Me.” It’s a little weird to hear a bluegrass band with an electric bass guitar and a piano.
10:21: Ricky Skaggs testified about his faith, and then sang “A Work of Love.”
10:25: Dailey & Vincent close out their set with “The Fourth Man.”
10:29: Mark Lowry takes the stage.
10:30: I stand corrected. Due to a broken femur, he’s standing in front of the stage. He sits on the stage stairs and launches into a comedy routine. He has a talent for making even the jokes we’ve heard a half-dozen times funny again.
He introduced “Mary, Did You Know” in a way I’ve never heard him introduce the song before. He said that one day, his mother shared with him that one of the greatest proofs that the Gospel story is true is Mary’s silence at the cross. His mother told him that if Mark’s hometown decided to crucify him, she’d be raising a storm. If Mark was claiming to be God, his mother said, she’d be the first out there to say, “He’s a liar! He might be a lunatic, but he’s not God! Don’t kill him!” But when Mary stood at the foot of the cross, as Jesus was being crucified for being God, she didn’t say a word—even if it would save His life, spare the cross—because she knew it was true. She, of anyone on this planet, was the one in a position to know the truth of the virgin birth. And she stayed silent.
He closed out with “Mary, Did You Know,” and got a standing ovation.
10:56: Clarke Beasley (NQC Executive Vice President) and Jackie Patillo (head of the Gospel Music Association) shared heartfelt words of encouragement for Libbi.
10:58: Ernie Haase & Signature Sound started their set with “Someday.” Song 2: “Glory to God in the Highest.” They must have figured out that the program needed some energy at this late hour. Song 3: “Get Away Jordan.” Lots of energy here. Signature Sound doesn’t do a huge number of dates with other Southern Gospel groups; this could be the first time that a fair chunk of the industry has seen this lineup live. I think their set tonight will help the buzz spread that this lineup has something special going.
11:09: Les Butler came up on stage to give Libbi gifts from the Predators sports team to pass along to Tracy for his birthday tomorrow.
11:11: The Oak Ridge Boys kick off their set with “Where the Soul Never Dies.” Song 2: Farther Along.
11:26: Jason Crabb began the final set of the night with his new single, “That’s What the Blood is For.” It’s a very strong song, and got a standing ovation at least from his fellow artists. Then he sang another new song, “Love is Stronger,” another very strong song.
He closed with “Through the Fire.” He stopped halfway through the chorus to preach a little. What a closer for the night! Karen Peck & New River, Joseph Habedank, and Ernie Haase & Signature Sound joined him for the closing. Libbi Perry Stuffle also came up on stage to sing it with him.
Libbi testified about how much the song had been ministered to her recently: “This too shall pass. We’re just going through the fire. It didn’t come to stay.”
Jason closed in prayer.