Hawthorne Gospel Church, August 22, 2004:
I ride over to the Hawthorne Gospel Church with Rich and Laura Lynch. Rich is my wife Kathy’s youngest sibling. Rich and Laura are huge Phil Keaggy fans. We have seen Phil before at King’s College, in Briarcliff Manor, New York. We decide to go to the church early, to get a good seat for tonight’s free concert. We arrive at about 4:45 P.M. and are second on line. Rich and Laura own Kweevak.com, a music promotion website. They soon attract some musicians on the line, to subscribe to their service and submit their band’s music CD for promotion. We enter at 6:00 P.M. as the doors open and the crowd rushes in. We secure third row (center, left) seats on the aisle. The crowd is very animated, joyful and enthusiastic. There is a brief introduction and the minister leads us in prayer.
Phil Keaggy takes the stage and the show starts at 6:32 P.M. Phil starts with a moderate 4/4 tempo composition that has an interesting chord melody. The song, “Lost In You,” features acoustic guitar and vocal. This song is a charming love story about a fondly cherished loved one. Phil immediately demonstrates dynamic contrast in tempo and volume. Phil informs the audience that the first song is from his latest CD, “It’s Personal.”
The next tune, “Strong Tower,” is from 1980. This music is a carefree, euphonic frolic, as Phil utilizes pick and finger-style technique on his guitar. He records the rhythm track and then immediately plays lead guitar along with himself. Phil’s playing is creatively inventive, as he effortlessly executes his electronic wizardry. His foot pedal captures the most recent segment of music for Phil to play against. He slaps the guitar on the ‘ones’ for rhythmic emphasis. He chooses full bar chords for that ‘fat’ rock sound. This kind of blues-rock format showcases Phil Keaggy’s wide and strong vocal range. He demonstrates a powerful vocal delivery and dynamic control that ends on a strong and impassioned high note.
The next song, “These Hills,” is in the minor mode and is slow and emphatic. The music conveys a serious and somber mood and communicates a feeling of heaviness as Phil sets the scene for what is to follow. He lays down the rhythm and then seamlessly plays the lead melody line in perfect synchronization with the freshly created track. The music paints a family portrait as Phil reminisces through a melancholy moment of remembrance. Phil is an excellent storyteller and musical illustrator, as he sings the refrain, “God made these walls and I remember that he made these walls.”
The next song, “Shades Of Green,” is played in the key of A. This composition is cerebral, celestial and thoughtful, as it caresses the audience by enveloping us with gorgeous scale runs and effortless hammering with his skillful fingers. He conveys total dynamic control: from slow and deliberate to double-time for compelling musical contrast. Phil truly showcases his creative genius with his Jam Man. He lays down the rhythm melody and then pounds on the guitar for a percussive cadence effect. He adds an interesting rhythmic garnish with the use of a percussion egg. He quickly creates a five-track background recording so he can place an acoustic guitar lead over it all. Phil is extremely creative and naturally fluid with the technology. He creates primarily consonant harmonic combinations and then one significantly dissonant chord. A remarkable choral sound has evolved from all the integrated musical layers. He plays dynamically quiet and playfully toys with fleeting dissonance and muted semitones. The musical mural is mysterious and moody and lends itself to musical sorcery, a la Jimmy Page. Phil executes outstanding lead playing over all the combined tracks.
Keith Green wrote the next song, “Your Love Broke Through”. Phil interjects that Keith, “got pretty friendly with Catholics, at the end.” The finger-style melody is slow and sincere, with well-conceived use of volume pedal accents. Phil delivers a profound lyric and strong vocal presentation, complemented by a gorgeous chord melody. The song is sincere, meaningful, deep and emotional.
The “Salvation Army Band” is introduced next. As Phil speaks I can feel the musical church. In four measures of an intro, Phil can lay down all the necessary content to create the remainder of any song. This tune is a blues-rock style and features a strong and powerful delivery. Phil displays virtuoso lead runs, scales and well timed flourishes. Phil records multi-tracked lead playing that showcases layers of lead runs, overlapping together perfectly! The seamless combination of digital recording and spontaneous creative guitar playing is spectacular.
“Under The Grace” is a ballad that embodies crystal clear resilience. The music conveys love, devotion, sincerity and a deep feeling of true expression. Phil demonstrates a strong and youthful vocal range that conveys a genuine spirit in communication. Phil’s vocal is evenly powerful throughout the high and low extremes of his range and he uses no falsetto to reach any difficult high notes.
The second set starts with, “Duck Tape Universe.” This song is quiet, delicate, cautious and cuddly. Phil executes excellent rhythmic accents by striking the strings with a back-and-forth stroking motion with his forefinger and thumb. The presentation is rooted in the blues and powerful. Phil creates four musical layers and it’s quickly filled up with a small band, himself! There is an interesting double-time bass line that is jazzy and seductive. This personifies a delicate touch, complemented by a captivating chord melody. “The Blood” follows which is slow, deliberate and mysterious. The sly and suggestive vocal delivery features high notes that are clear and strong. These vocals are tastefully dynamic with his melodic and rhythmic delivery. Phil is a creatively articulate storyteller. Phil seamlessly creates compact four-measure samples to play against, forming a several layer musical cake, culminating with an incredible crescendo and flourish of notes.
“Sunday’s Child” is a joyful and uplifting musical narrative that is a colorful crowd pleaser. This musical moment brings the entire audience into Phil Keaggy’s warm embrace. “Let Everything Else Go,” is a slow, sensual serenade. With this composition, Phil caresses and touches the deepest reaches of my musical soul. Creative chord melodies and astute vocal delivery, that makes one swoon, combine to provoke a deeply sincere and sentimental human emotion. His guitar solo simmers like a masterful musical chef over freshly baked rhythmic bread.
Phil Keaggy puts on an inspirational and spiritually
uplifting performance, here tonight. He dazzles us on guitar technique and
musical creativity. He displays a superior control over the technology, with
his unmistakable use of his Jam Man. Thank you Rich and Laura for
inviting me, once again, to witness one of the all-time great musical artists, Phil
Keaggy! Thank you Phil, for a supremely gifted musical experience, a
gracious gift from God in heaven!
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