Live at Cornerstone 2000
- Their Final Performance: A Tribute to Gene Eugene
Keith Green. Mark Heard. Rich Mullins. Gene Eugene.
A commonly held Church maxim professes God's timing is always perfect. Reflecting on this list of our departed brothers, however, you can't help but feel that God has often deprived the Christian artistic community of some of our brightest and best in a most untimely fashion. Although our understanding of the intricacies of our Lord's cosmic plan are limited, the profound regret and deep sadness we face this side of heaven are very substantial. Gene Eugene empathized depths of pain and loss firsthand so accurately that his work reverberates with a tangible resonance that only comes from someone acutely in tune with the melancholic consequences of earthly life's pitfalls. Eugene felt deeply and honestly. Consequently, he bore an uncanny gift for conveying his thoughts and emotions perfectly in song. This only increased the impact of his seemingly untimely death and the intensity of emotions among the dear friends and fans who came out to pay tribute to him at Cornerstone 2000.
Billed both as Adam Again's final performance and a tribute to Gene Eugene, the live set was both a sort of wake and a celebration. In year's past when Eugene still led the band, Adam Again concerts were a rollickingly good party with dancing aplenty. On July 7, 2000, when the band took the stage for the last time together without their beloved front man, the mood was markedly different. There wasn't any dancing that night, although there certainly could have been...(I believe that, too, would have honored Gene). Instead, appreciative fans sat practically dumbstruck watching one of the tightest live bands in the history of music making honor their friend, band-mate and brother. The words "moving" and "tribute" were paired for just such an occasion, and now that penultimate concert is available on disc to help relive the emotional experience.
Gene Eugene was loved by many. The lineup of his closest friends that aided his band for the tribute reads like a who's who of alternative Christian music's finest:
Knott of LSU
All of Eugene's Adam Again band-mates were there as well, including Paul Valdez, Jon Knox, Greg Lawless, Dan Michaels (again) and Riki Michele. Eugene was a performance perfectionist, always driving his band to higher levels of excellence on stage and off. He would have been very proud of his friends that evening. The band delivered a concert that was at least equal to, if not better than, any show they'd previously performed. Even James Brown could have acknowledged their legendary reputation as one of the greatest live bands in the world.
Notwithstanding, the excellent contributions of the usual suspects who played their hearts out, special note is made of Andrew Pricket's contribution playing Eugene's guitar parts with precision and pizzazz.
Forever affirming that Gene Eugene was an extremely effective and under-appreciated vocalist, some of ACM's best singers struggled while filling Eugene's place at the microphone. Overall, their individual performances are largely successful, of course, yet all the guest vocalists would agree that not one of them quite captures Eugene's unique and expressive emotive essence. For that matter, how could they? The pressure of stepping up to the plate for someone else is hard enough, and made all the more difficult when facing the loss of the loved one for whom you are pitch hitting. Regardless, while giving it their absolute best cracks at bat, not one of them chokes on the source material, all of them honor Eugene with their attempt, and several performances are genuine home-runs. Among those are Riki Michele's "Dance Around in Circles," Mike Roe's "Dig," and Mike Knott's intense delivery of "Homeboys" and "All You Lucky People."
On three songs Mike Roe's vocal work fairs much better on disc than you would suspect given the self-deprecating facial gymnastics of his live performance. Similarly swept up in the moment, Mike Knott's passionate performance over five selections also transcends the difficulty he personally felt for Gene's passing. The two main Choir men also offer welcome additions to the set. Derri Daugherty's vocal contribution to "Worldwide," one of Adam Again's most radio-ready hits, is another high point. On the very next track, Steve Hindalong appropriately and effectively sings "Hide Away," a song originally penned by Hindalong which Adam Again covered on Homeboys.
In virtually every circumstance, the guest vocalists attempted to retain the spirit of Eugene's original vocal delivery inasmuch as possible. Only Sim Wilson's turn in the spotlight translates as a substantial stylistic change. His vocal interpretation of "Don't Cry" renders the otherwise heartbreakingly melancholy song in a more hopeful, upbeat fashion. Had it been otherwise, the artists and audience might have drowned in their tears. Instead, Wilson's performance provides more celebration and comfort than despair.
For those who picked up the M8 recording earlier this year, some substantial differences make the additional purchase of this Galaxy 21 version worthwhile. Most obviously, the M8 package with three discs and Galaxy 21's with two have completely different artwork, packaging and liner notes. The individual testimonies of the final concert's involved parties in the Galaxy 21 sleeve are a pleasant, personal touch. Secondly, Galaxy 21 purports to be the better mixed, edited and mastered of the two. The enclosed material also differs. M8 offers bootleg-quality concert material from Adam Again's 1995 and 1997 sets on the additional discs. Instead, Galaxy 21 contains an upbeat new song from Riki Michele which is a real keeper, and an entirely separate CD containing Greg Lawless's solo album Prayers & Lowsongs (reviewed separately). Best of all, the Galaxy 21 set comes with photos and video footage enhancement and is half the price! Most fans may embrace both options as must-haves for the collection. Regardless, the timing is perfect to pick up Live at Cornerstone 2000 - Their Final Performance: A Tribute to Gene Eugene and celebrate one of our most talented, beloved and profoundly missed singer songwriters.
Steven S. Baldwin 5/26/2001
There are some concerts I've attended that have left indelible marks on me. Many of them took place at Cornerstone Festival. Two of them were Adam Again concerts. The first occurred at Cornerstone's Encore tent minutes after the impromptu marriage engagement for my then-fiancee and me on July 1, 1995. The band was tight, as always, and I remember a lot of dancing. The second was July 4, 2000, at the Gallery stage, again at Cornerstone. The band was tight, and there was a lot of dancing. There was also a lot of weeping. It was certainly a powerful, emotional show, as the band and friends celebrated the life and music of, and said goodbye to, Gene Eugene.
This show was recorded, and two record companies have released copies of it. One of those companies, Galaxy 21 music, has released the recording in a two-disc package entitled Adam Again Live at Cornerstone 2000, which contains a bonus studio track from Riki Michele, and an album from Adam Again guitarist, Greg Lawless called Prayers and Lowsongs, which makes up the second disc.
Live at Cornerstone 2000 starts with introductions, and Riki Michele's emotional thank-yous to the audience, after which the band kicks in with "Strobe," the vocals sung by Michele and BGV's done by Karin Berquist from Over the Rhine. It is a little surprising to hear Michele singing a song that seems to be almost out of her comfortable vocal range. Next, the band kicks into "Dance Around in Circles," in which Michele's vocal talents shine. It is amazing to think about the emotions the band must have had to deal with during this entire set, and especially for Michele singing songs her dear friend and ex-husband sang for years.
Derri Daugherty takes the microphone to sing "Worldwide," and then his partner in crime, Steve Hindalong does vocals for a song he co-wrote with Gene Eugene, "Hide Away." Hindalong's voice is very fragile-sounding, which causes the listener to lean in and pay close attention.
Mike Roe sings three songs next, and eerily evokes Gene's vocal delivery. The liner notes of Live at Cornerstone 2000 give each artist who performed during this show a chance to express his or her thoughts about that night and about Gene. Roe says, "When I opened my mouth to sing the first line of "Deep," I knew for the first and last time in my life what it must feel like to be a 'medium.' The guy was right there in my throat, helping me get the words out." Any thoughts that Roe may be exaggerating are dispelled immediately upon the hearing Roe sing, "My days of wishful thinking..." Greg Lawless' guitar work on this song is also amazing. The passion continues with "Dig," again with Roe delivering dead-on vocals. Roe, whether intentionally or not, brings a new image to mind when he replaces the lines "driving in my car" with "drinking in my car" in the song, "Stone."
Sim Wilson follows with "Don't Cry." Wilson holds tremendous composure singing the lines "If you could go, you would, I know/ and if I could stay...don't cry" as, ironically, the tears pour down his face, as he describes in the liner notes.
Although one can't hear them on the disc, I believe this is about the time that fireworks were being launched over the lake, as part of Cornerstone's annual festivities.
Mike Knott finishes off the set singing five of his good friend's songs. Knott is a good choice to sing "Hopeless, etc." as he delivers angst naturally. Lawless is a monster on guitar during this song. With "It Is What It Is," Knott also is eerily accurate with his vocals. The energy carries over into "Homeboys," and "Relapse" is absolutely haunting. Singing the lines, "It's sneaking up again, again the end/ I thought that I was better," Knott almost conjures Eugene. The pounding, methodic rhythm to this song is almost trance-like. Finally, the set finishes with "All You Lucky People," in which Knott belts, "I've got nothing but time."
After this song, the listener can hear the crowd whistling, clapping, and calling for more. After a minute, the applause evolves into a rhythmic clapping, as the stage is empty. This carries on for some time. I remember thinking to myself at this point, "Is that it?" and realizing that the question seemed very appropriate. After a while longer, someone approaches the microphone and says, "Don't anybody go anywhere, okay?" The sound on the CD fades out at this point, but what followed next was the projection of a video tribute to Gene, with "River on Fire" as the soundtrack. This video is included on the disc's CD ROM feature.
The last track on this disc is a bonus studio track, a dancy number by Riki Michele, called "Mystery in Me." As good as the song is, it seems out of place for this disc. Also confusing is the inclusion of the second disc, Greg Lawless' Prayers and Lowsongs. The tracks sound like they were all recorded live, except for the lack of crowd noise and artist monologue. Perhaps it is a recording of his solo acoustic show, also performed at Cornerstone 2000. I don't know, because there is no information about this recording, nor any explanation for the inclusion of this disc in this package.
Adam Again Live at Cornerstone 2000 is a disc Adam Again fans will want to have. It is an emotional tribute to a lyrical and musical genius. It is a bittersweet thing to hear these friends of Gene's singing his songs: each has his or her own way of expressing what Gene and his songs mean to him or her. At the same time, the listener becomes quite aware that we'll never have a voice like Gene's again. The CD ROM features are very well done, and will be appreciated by fans. Even the bonus disc, although seemingly out of place and lacking information, is an enjoyable listen, and probably deserving of its own review. Overall, my recommendation to anyone who was touched by Gene Eugene's music, is to set aside a space for Adam Again Live at Cornerstone 2000 in your personal music library, and secure a copy of this disc.
Dave Kerschbaum 7/11/2001
While there is undoubtedly a lot to be said about this 2-album set, which is ultimately three separate things in one convenient carrying case, the most important thing to know is the why. Why record and sell the concert of a band whose leader, songwriter, and heart was not?
The answer is that the influence of that dear departed band leader, Gene Eugene, will live on in Christian rock and alternative circles. This album is a recording of the tribute show that took place just a few months after Eugene's sudden death, and a look into the futures of his associates.
As with all live albums there
are strong points and weak points. Both Michael Knott and Mike Roe take
inspired turns as Gene Eugene stand-ins. Riki Michele has a couple solid,
if not exceptional tracks. Sim Wilson's rendition of "Don't Cry" makes
tears inevitable with the beautiful passion in his voice setting off the
simple melody. Derri Daugherty does a good job on "Worldwide" and Steve
Hindalong does well on "When You Hide Away." However, as with all live
albums, from time to time there are recording level problems, especially
in "Hopeless, Etc." where Knott's voice disappears altogether. The sound
engineer is probably not to blame. Knott may have been too far from the
mike, given his tendencies when performing.
The second disc is a solo project by Greg Lawless of Adam Again entitled Prayers and Lowsongs. This disc, with its gritty sound, and thoughtful lyrics, shows a startling side to Lawless as he has been primarily known for his stellar Adam Again guitar work. Combined with Michele's song, this demonstrates that the talent in Adam Again was indeed far reaching.
Finally, there is the enhanced CD portion, with the good-byes to Gene Eugene and a preview of a forthcoming movie about him.
All in all, a very well done package.
Alex Klages 7/17/2001