Sara Groves’ purity of lyric and superb sense of melody make her songs as timeless and evergreen as the trees that decorated the stage




Whipping winds and cold temperatures made it obvious that winter had officially started on Long Island, but you wouldn’t know it inside Long Island’s CenterPoint Church, where this one-time synagogue was hosting Sara Groves in concert. The Minnesota native no-doubt took the frigid temperatures in stride, while Groves’ artful yet homespun take on the holidays kept things warm inside.


One of the few artists that stays unaffected by stylistic changes on the pop music landscape, Sara Groves’ purity of lyric and superb sense of melody make her songs both timeless and as evergreen as the trees that decorated the stage. In a performance that was musically straightforward, un-enhanced by smoke effects, strobe lights, or pre-recorded beds of sound, the simple three-piece ensemble (Sara on Keys, Christian Harger on bass, and Zack Miller on drums, percussion, occasional guitar and backing vocals) proved that well-written songs can stand on their own merit.


Starting off with “Star of Wonder,” from her excellent O Holy Night project, Groves performed several Christmas songs with her own special touch added: a tweaked melody here, an additional lyric there …all effectively evoking a reverent reimagining of familiar Christmas themes. The holiday songs were interspersed with songs from her back catalog, highlights of the evening being “Love is Still a Worthy Cause,” from the Tell Me What You Know album and the poignant “Enough,” from the current, Floodplain.


Groves spoke not only about the holiday season but about projects near to her heart, such as the Art House Community she’s involved with and, especially, the International Justice Mission (IJM), a human rights organization that rescues victims of violence, sexual exploitation, slavery and oppression. There was a brief intermission that followed a short video presentation introducing the organization and showing a bit of what they do.


Groves’ between-song patter ranged from her endorsement of IJM (which I kept hearing as “I jam,” which is true, I suppose) to lighter diversions such as Giraffes, a childhood story about an elf in a furnace, and the problem of sliding eyeglasses. I know – you had to be there. Of course, the Sara Groves Christmas song that all parents relate to, “Toy Packaging,” followed a brief discourse on pet peeves…   


At the end of the concert the audience joined in with Sara and her band on “Go Tell it on The Mountain,” with the feeling of a community sing – but this is what Sara seems to be about. She’s an extraordinary artist, yes – but she’s also a breaker of walls, and one of those walls she doesn’t seem to like is the wall between performer and audience. Her unguarded manner, honesty, and transparency are quite an amazing gift, and a gift she shared well on Long Island, sixteen days before Christmas. Thank you, Sara.


Bert Saraco, words and pictures

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