Tuesday, June 15, 2004


My first try at a DVD review

Michael W. Smith
Live In Concert - A 20-Year Celebration

It is not very often that a concert video can move a person to the edge of tears with the sheer triumph of the music. Michael W. Smith did that with this concert.

Recorded in Columbus, Ohio on October 26, 2003, this concert is a celebration of Smith's 20-year career. He covers his entire repertoire, ranging from "First Decade" songs like Rocketown, Wired For Sound and Friends, all the way up to his phenomenally popular "Worship" albums. Those albums are particularly well-represented, with 4 great worship tunes (Above All, Agnus Dei (my wife's favorite), Rich Mullins' Awesome God and You Are Holy (Prince of Peace)). There is also a new song, Signs, written for his "Second Decade" greatest hits collection. The concert is 19 songs in length, although Love Crusade, For You, Place In This World and I Will Be Here For You are performed as a medley.

The band is extremely tight, and the backup singers are outstanding. The quality of the performance is excellent and the picture and sound quality of the DVD is excellent. THIS is why DVD's were made. Smith is pitch-perfect all through the show, and the older songs hold up well, especially Rocketown, Secret Ambition and Wired For Sound. I did not know that Wired For Sound was created in 1986. The song sounds modern to me and must have sounded ahead of its time when it first hit the airwaves. However, as good as these songs are, the real chills start halfway through.

After a brief introduction, Smith gives way to the opening strains of "Lead Me On", which leads to the appearance of Amy Grant. Grant performs the song, one of her signature pieces, and follows it with El Shaddai and Thy Word. This leads into the worship section, where the show really takes off.

If you have listened to the albums "Worship" and/or "Worship Again", or watched the "Worship" concert DVD, you know the level of love Smith has for these songs. That is evidenced yet again in the 4-song worship package that closes out the show proper. Best of all, for me, is You Are Holy. The whole band is right into the song, and the backup singers carry the song. It's an exuberant, uplifting 4 minutes that leads into the final, most emotional, number.

The song This Is Your Time is a powerful song, shaped by the events surrounding the Columbine High School tragedy of a few years ago. The lyric, combined with the music and the bagpipes that soar over the ending, create a moving and powerful tribute to a young girl killed by the two boys who perpetrated the shooting at Columbine. She was given a chance to live if she renounced her faith in Christ. She remained true to her faith and was martyred. It is the only song that, on first listen, brought tears to my eyes. Smith and the band deliver a powerful, moving performance of the song that finishes the show on exactly the right note, as the keening bagpipes continue to play until the stage goes completely dark.

There are a few pretty cool extras on the disc as well. The Signs music video is included, and some songs are given a multi-angle treatment, allowing the viewer to watch what is playing behind the band on the video wall. Songs for which this option is available include Secret Ambition (which I think is showing excerpts from the "Jesus" video) and This Is Your Time (which is showing the video created for the song. There is also a documentary on the making of the Signs video and a short-form "Behind the Scenes" documentary showing backstage footage set to the instrumental tune Hibernia.


Concert: 10/10
Sound Quality: 5/5
Picture Quality: 4/5
Extras: 4/5

Overall: 23/25 (92%)

This is a truly great disc, uplifting and powerful from start to finish. Smith's music is very easy to listen to, he is a congenial frontman interacting well with the audience and you really get a "you are here" sense. It is available at all Christian bookstores and at Amazon.ca.

I am curious to know what you think of the review. All feedback is welcome.