There are some concerts that feel just like that, like a concert. The performances are practiced and flawless, the performers all on their game and nailing every note. But even with that sense of near perfection, you leave having heard great performances but lacking a sense of connection.
Then there are shows like The Music & Madness Tour, featuring southern gospel mainstays Mark Lowry, The Martins, and Jason Crabb, which rolled into Sarasota, FL on November 7 to play for a nearly full house. Here fans were treated to great performances all around but, even more so, they got a deeper connection, both through the music and through the performers.
For those fortunate enough, the beautiful evening started off with a brief VIP “Q&A” which saw fans ushered into another area of the venue and given an intimate opportunity to ask questions of the performers. From the very get go, it was obvious how different a group of people this was, Jonathan Martin walking in shaking hands, Mark Lowry sharing a few shakes as well, and Jason Crabb taking a moment of his time to say hello to a delightful little girl down front. The vibe was light and energetic, Lowry getting the lion’s share of the questions from the crowd and delivering his signature quips and insights. But the questions went all around and the jokes even more so, leaving everyone pumped and primed for a great night.
And what a great night it was.
Things kicked off with The Culture, the tour’s in-house band taking the stage and warming the audience up with a warm, jazz-flavored intro. Then it was The Martins’ turn to take the stage and they were electric, showing why they’re one of the industry’s top vocal groups. Throughout the night, they delivered showstopper after showstopper, their a cappella harmonies as good as ever on tracks like “Shut De Do” and holiday favorite, “O Come Emmanuel,” while their hit “The Promise” rang true with stunning passion and praise.
Jason Crabb was equally dynamic, his “aw shucks” charm matched only by his heart and powerhouse vocals. His delivery of “Somebody Like Me” was invigorating while his more recent hit “Love Is Stronger” brought the audience to its feet. Of course, he rocked the house with the Crabb Family favorite “Through the Fire” but one of the most endearing parts of the evening when he was giving the pitch for Feed the Children, a great child relief organization along on the tour. While some artists have supported similar organizations, Crabb took it to the next degree, he and his musical cohorts hand delivering the folders and he taking it upon himself to hug the neck of just about everyone he passed one along to. It was a small, simple touch that really highlighted his character.
Mark Lowry was the glue that held the night together, playing the role of MC as well as performer. His comedy was hilarious as always, poking fun at denominational lines as he handed off a pair of earplugs to the evening’s lone Church of Christ member and playfully whispering “No tongue!” after telling husbands and wives to share a kiss during one of his romantic classics. Yet, he also waxed eloquent on the life of the believer, coming down on the side that we’re all “just a bunch of freaks,” all in need of a Savior and really showing a great authenticity and transparency through the evening.
Of course, he also gave the audience a good dose of music as well, showcasing some stellar vocals on songs from his latest album, Unforgettable Classics. The standards here just fit Lowry’s voice perfectly, his tone warm and heartfelt as he rang through tracks like “The Very Thought of You” and “Fly Me to the Moon.” And yes, it wouldn’t be a Mark Lowry show without him performing his hit “Mary, Did You Know?” and he nailed it.
And while the performances were all top notch and Mark kept everyone alternately in stitches and deep thought, it was equally fun to just watch the interaction between these performers. The delight was evident as each member sang, oftentimes bringing each other to their feet with their passion and emotion. And it was an unrestrained appreciation for each other’s gifts that made it so inviting, showing their true love and care not only for one another, but for the message being shared.
And that message was a very simple, yet very profound one: God loves you no matter how messed up you are or ever will be and wants to be a part of your life.
On this beautiful Florida night, God couldn’t have chosen a better set of messengers.