The Redeemed Tour with Big Daddy Weave, Chris August, Citizen Way. Spreading happiness in good measure.

Oshkosh Community Church
2 February 2013

Told a friend I was going to see Big Daddy Weave, and he went into one of his favorite music rants about how Eddie Vedder has wrought an unfortunate influence over many male vocalists from the mid-'90s onward, so much so that my disgruntled chum said he wants to start a band to mock what he perceives as the pernicious encroachment of Pearl Jam's singer over a generation of rock guys. The friend in question would call his band '90s Crap.

He hears that influence extending from obvious suspects such as Creed's Scott Stapp and Hootie & The Blowfish lead man-turned- commercial country soloist Darius Rucker to contempo' Christian fellas including Third Day's Mac Powell and...Mike Weaver.

Maybe my grunge-grumpy bud' has a point*,  but I'm willing to cut the man-mountain who leads--and is, as he refers to himself in the third person on stage-Big Daddy Weave some slack. Not only because whatever Vedderisms are less pronounced than some of the above examples, but because he seems the antithesis of Vedder's ornery sullenness. Weaver's Christianity has plenty to do with that, certainly, but it appears he'd be putting on a happier face than the oft-denim'ed warbler to whom he was compared.

And Weaver and his mates were spreading happiness in good measure during their efficiently tight, relatively brief concert at Oshkosh Community Church. The pitch for tour-sponsoring charity World Vision, along with a video of the band visiting the Zambian child Weaver and his wife sponsor, was  preceded by the titular anthem for BDW's latest album, Love Come To Life...just before the evening's intermission? What the...?! They came back soon enough,. however, to stick largely to some of the greatest radio hits from the best-of collection that preceded Love.

Their latest is the only album by the band I've reviewed for any of my freelance work; in this instance, it was for the Christian bookstore trade magazine where I regularly contribute. Truthfully, I don't often listen to the kinds of radio stations where BDW receive most of their airplay, at least for those stations' music. Nor have  I been very favorably impressed by the Weave'sters until, maybe, three alums ago. Love, however, struck me as a well realized adult contempo' cCm collection coming from a pretty sincere place on the band's part as they continued to cater to radio formats that have supported them in the past. There's the possibility of critical Stockholm syndrome on my part, too, wherein I may be convincing myself of liking some music because I'm paid to do so and know that much of the readership to whom I'm writing will like it even if I don't. Seeing how I'm honest enough to admit that I don't recall having liked them at the start of  their major label career, however, here's to trusting my aesthetic intuition enough to have made the trek to the show and invite a female friend of long standing (who had not been to a concert in so long she couldn't recall for me the last one she had seen) who listens to adult cCm radio music more than I do.

Not only for the good company of a friend, it was worth the trip. The 'Weave aren't looking for general market crossover hits, and they make the kind of lyrically vertical and declarative utilitarian soft pop/rock that artsier types in musical Christendom are wont to dismiss. But, so what? They do it better than many. And if they did perform any songs from their first couple albums that I thought were duds when I heard them on the air, the performances that night were such that here they were far more scintillating.  

They might have even broached influence they might not know they have in them. Most prominently, it's a fair guess that early Roxy Music and Nigerian highlife music aren't prime among Weaver's and his mates' musical diets. Yet, that's exactly what they approached when bass and sax intertwined for a couple measures in "Fields Of Grace."  The soft/loud/soft/loud structure of "Magnificent God" does, alas, give ammo' to post-grunge allegations (apart  from it being a bit of an awkward fit of lyrics to music), but as a modern praise&worship anthem goes, it has more on the theological/doctrinal ball than some of the numbers sung in too many churches on Sunday mornings of late.

Weaver brought to his band's set the show to its musical, commercial and narrative their most recent and possibly biggest single, "Redeemed." Not only does the song possess a monster of a slow sing-along hook in its chorus, but the Big Daddy of the band showed vulnerability enough to relate how it was born out of his own struggles with self-image, perfectionism and a works mentality in his relationship with the Lord.

Weaver likewise seems to genuinely be a fan of his group's opening acts. He spoke animatedly of Chris August, second on the bill with backing tracks on his laptop computer and acoustic guitar. It was refreshing to hear a singer who can start off his portion of the night with a horizontal enough-sounding love song such as "Let The Music Play" and then not many numbers later confess that he's not interested in denuding his songwriting of mentions of Jesus merely to vie for a broader audience. Both his soul gospel-infused baritone and schtick with his non-performing performance elements recall Bryan Duncan in a good way. August's overall folk/gospel/pop/R&B approach imagines a mash-up of Tony Rich and Gavin DeGraw, even if radio biggies of his such as "Starry Night" and  "7 x 70" don't make those connections in a most pronounced manner. Given the right leading of his songwriting muse and circumstances working in his favor, he could yet have the hit or three outside the evangelighetto he's reticent to purposefully compose.  

Openers Citizen Way have an annoying name somewhere between generic and ridiculous, a line-up comprised of two sets of brothers, one of whom has a veritable man of hair, another of whom is an impressively aggressive drummer for an act whose whose isn't all that violent, one of the cheeriest singers it's been my experience to see...and at least one song on which they could be collecting royalties long into their dotage. "Should've Been Me" is as succinct an encapsulation of the doctrine of Christ's substitutionary atonement in poppy rock form as one's apt to find, about as perfect for K-Love as it is for church youth groups (one of which being the song's origination). The rest of their few songs were about as catchy and bode well for an album I may find myself liking much as I was surprised to enjoy the latest by the guys for whom they were headlining.

-Jamie Lee Rake

*Upon further conversation with that friend, he admitted that Weaver may have more of a Stapp than Vedder influence, which he finds even less becoming. Big Mike may be happy to read that I don't hear that resemblance.

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