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Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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Stevie Wonder ConcertConcert Review:  Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life Performance Tour – Banker’s Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis November 7

Stevie Wonder, who rarely tours, appeared last Saturday at the Banker’s Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on his Songs in the Key of Life Performance Tour. This was the second time I had seen him in concert, the first being way back in high school, when Rufus featuring Chaka Kahn opened for him.

I remember the anticipation around the long-delayed Songs in the Key of Life album that was finally released in 1976. It is one of the greatest albums of all time, truly a masterpiece. The 21 song (originally a double album and four-song EP) included radio hits “Sir Duke”, “I Wish” and “Isn’t She Lovely”, and is #57 on Rolling Stone magazine’s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” list.

stevie wonder

The 65 year-old Wonder began the marathon concert – beginning at about 8:10pm and ending at 11:55pm, including a 15-minute intermission – by addressing the nearly full Banker’s Life Fieldhouse crowd, equally consisting of black and white (Ebony and Ivory!) fans, some of whom were really decked out for the show, accompanied by vocalist Latrelle Simmons. He said he was dedicating the performance to Amos Brown, a local radio personality and journalist who died two days earlier of a suspected heart attack.

Wonder was backed by a large and talented ensemble as he performed his classic album in its entirety. By my count this included:

  • 10-piece string ensemble, plus the animated conductor
  • 5 background singers, including Simmons
  • Four drummers/percussionists
  • 6-piece horn section
  • 2 keyboardists
  • Three guitarists, including musical director Nathan Watts
  • Gospel choir that joined in a few songs

As Wonder played the album pretty much, but not entirely, in order, beginning with “Love’s in Need of Love Today” and finishing with “Another Star”, he showcased his own and his band’s extensive talents, playing extended versions of some songs and giving each of the backing vocalists the opportunity to show off their skills. Highlights included “Sir Duke”, “I Wish”, “Isn’t She Lovely”, and the closing “As” and “Another Star”. He led a great sing-along on “Knocks Me Off My Feet”, having the women in the crowd singing “I don’t want to bore you with it” and the men following with “But I love you, I love you, I love you”.

While playing the harpejji, an electric stringed instrument that aims to bridge the gap in sound and technique between the guitar and the piano, Wonder played his classic “My Cherie Amour” and the Impressions’ 1965 song “People Get Ready”.

During the instrumental “Easy Goin’ Evening (My Mama’s Call)”, Wonder displayed his harmonica skills, leading into “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, often referred to as the African-American national anthem, and finishing with a moving version “The Star-Spangled Banner”.

After Wonder completed “Another Star”, he exclaimed “We did it!” Playing the entire 21 song album in its entirety was quite an accomplishment. He then did another set in which he insisted he be known as DJ Tick Tick Boom, ending the evening with high energy versions of “Do I Do”, Ribbon in the Sky”, “Signed Sealed Delivered (I’m Yours)” and “Superstition”.

Wonder ends this tour with a November 24 show at New York’s Madison Square Garden, and has said he will only perform it again for President Obama (should he ask). We thoroughly enjoyed this unique performance.

Getty's Christmas AlbumMusic Review: Joy: An Irish Christmas LIVE – Keith and Kristyn Getty

I’ve always heard great things about the Getty’s Christmas concerts, but as of yet we haven’t gotten to one. We’ve seen them twice in concert, and at an October, 2014 fall date of their “Hymns for the Christian Life” tour we did get to hear them perform “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” giving us a small taste of what their Christmas concerts are like.

If you are not familiar with the Getty’s, they are writers of modern hymns for the church. Kristyn handles lead vocals, Keith plays piano and acoustic guitar, and they have a very talented band made up of musicians from America and Ireland.

The Getty’s released their first Christmas album Joy – An Irish Christmas in 2011. I have a concern that this new live recording may get lost as it has an almost identical title and even some similar artwork as the 2011 release.

Keith has reflected on why Christmas carols are more than just sentimental songs at the end of the year: “We would do well as worship leaders to remember that non-churchgoers are far more inclined to attend a church service during the Christmas season where songs are easy and enjoyable to sing rather than a church trying to put on the slickest possible show. The music of carols, written by some of the finest hymn writers of all time (such as Wesley, Watts and Rossetti) and arranged by equally outstanding composers (Handel, Holst and Mendelssohn) speaks for itself. We have wonderful songs to use! And Christmas gives us a wide open door to use those songs to impact culture like no other time of the year.”

For this concert, performed in front of an enthusiastic audience, and featured on Public Television, they are joined by Irish dancers and a multi-generational choir. In a live setting, they bring some fresh and extended arrangements to the songs on the studio album, add some additional Christmas songs as well as some other songs such as “A Mother’s Prayer”, “Come Ye Sinners” and one of our best modern hymns that we sing often in our church “In Christ Alone”.

Despite the similar album name, this is not just a live version of the 2011 studio album. In addition to the three songs listed above, the below are songs not included on the studio album:

O Come Redeemer of the Earth
Here We Come A-Wassailing
Sleigh Ride (with Christmas Eve Reel)
Deck the Halls
O Children Come
Irish Christmas Blessing
Go Tell It on the Mountain

Also available on DVD, this live concert recording is aptly named. I felt joy listening to it and worshiping our Savior and his birth. As with all of the Getty’s recordings, these songs feature theologically rich lyrics and top-notch musicianship. Along with Chris Tomlin’s new Adore: Christmas Songs of Worship, this is an excellent new Christmas album to help us worship our Savior this season.


  • Behind the Song with Kevin Davis: Be Kind to Yourself by Andrew Peterson. Find out more about this song from Peterson’s excellent album The Burning Edge of Dawn, one of my favorites of the year. The lyrics and a video of Peterson performing the song are included.
  • Fernando Ortega: A Living Legacy of Faith, Both Ancient and Future. Mia Koehne offers this brief profile of one of my favorite artists.
  • Crowder Releases Neon Porch Extravaganza.  Crowder recently surprised his fans with a new live album recorded at Passion City Church in Atlanta.
  • Snowtime. James Taylor discusses his new single “Snowtime” from his chart-topping album Before This World.
  • Restored Penny Lane Video. The Beatles are set to release 1+, which features 200 minutes of their film footage – you can watch the restored video for “Penny Lane” here. Along with the film for the A-side of the single “Strawberry Fields Forever”, this would become one of the first of what we now know as “music videos”. As a 10-year old Beatles fan, I remember watching the videos for both songs in their American television debut on the program The Hollywood Palace, and being stunned over their new appearance (mustaches and beards).  
  • “A Day in the Life” Video. Speaking of the Beatles new 1+ compilation album – a deluxe reissue of their 2000 No. 1 hits collection 1, that’s set to include some 50 restored and never-commercially-released films and videos – check out this new video of their song “A Day in the Life”.
  •  Songs of Experience. Good news for U2 fans – Bono states that U2’s fourteenth album Songs of Experience, will be released in 2016.

LecraePeople will hurt you. But don’t use that as an excuse for poor choices, use it as motivation to make the right ones.  Lecrae



Song of the Week

He Shall Reign Forevermore by Chris Tomlin

This week’s song of the week is Chris Tomlin’s “He Shall Reign Forevermore” from his new live Christmas album Adore: Christmas Songs of Worship. Watch Chris Tomlin and Matt Maher, the songs co-writers discuss, perform and teach you the song.

Listen to the album version and watch the lyric video here. Watch the song being performed here.

In the bleak mid-winter, all creation groans
For a world in darkness, frozen like a stone
Light is breaking, in a stable
For a throne

And He shall reign forevermore, forevermore
And He shall reign forevermore, forevermore
Unto us a child is born
The King of kings and Lord of lords
And He shall reign forevermore, forevermore

If I were a wise man, I would travel farAdore by Chris Tomlin
And if I were a shepherd, I would do my part
But poor as I am
I will give to Him my heart

And He shall reign forevermore, forevermore
And He shall reign forevermore, forevermore
Unto us a child is born
The King of kings and Lord of lords
And He shall reign forevermore, forevermore

Here within a manger lies
The One who made the starry skies
This baby born for sacrifice
Christ, the Messiah
Into our hopes, into our fears
The Savior of the world appears
The promise of eternal years
Christ, the Messiah

He shall reign forevermore, forevermore
He shall reign forevermore, forevermore
He shall reign forevermore, forevermore

And He shall reign forevermore, forevermore
Unto us a child is born
The King of kings and Lord of lords
And He shall reign forevermore, forevermore

Author: Bill Pence

I’m Bill Pence – married to my best friend Tammy, a graduate of Covenant Seminary, St. Louis Cardinals fan, formerly a manager at a Fortune 50 organization, and in leadership at my local church. I am a life-long learner and have a passion to help people develop, and to use their strengths to their fullest potential. I am an INTJ on Myers-Briggs, 3 on the Enneagram, my top five Strengthsfinder themes are: Belief, Responsibility, Learner, Harmony, and Achiever, and my two StandOut strength roles are Creator and Equalizer. My favorite book is the Bible, with Romans my favorite book of the Bible, and Colossians 3:23 and 2 Corinthians 5:21 being my favorite verses. Some of my other favorite books are The Holiness of God and Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul, and Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. I enjoy music in a variety of genres, including modern hymns, Christian hip-hop and classic rock. My book Called to Lead: Living and Leading for Jesus in the Workplace and Tammy’s book Study, Savor and Share Scripture: Becoming What We Behold are available in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.

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