Lead Me On...Down Memory Lane

By Andy_Argyrakis
Posted: Thu, 11/20/2008 - 17:47

album promo image for Lead Me On...Down Memory Lane

Amy Grant performs at Mansion Theaterin Branson, MO. Photo by Andy Argyrakis

By Andy Argyrakis, senior music editor, GospelMusicChannel.com

History in the remaking
Twenty years ago, pop/rock superstar Amy Grant not only released a cornerstone collection of her lauded catalogue in the form of Lead Me On, but it just so happened to be regarded as the single most influential Christian album of all time. Defying genre boundaries, the disc boasted everything from guitar-charged rockers to vibrant pop reflections, poignant ballads and even a country-tinged romp. It also showcased the singer/songwriter evolving in a remarkably authentic direction, boldly displaying personal reflections of a woman in her late 20s, viewing life through a genuine perspective of faith.

Though Grant's knocking at the door of 48, she sounds just as strong if not even more rock solid on the Lead Me On 20th Anniversary Edition (EMI), featuring the original album remastered, plus a bonus disc of new acoustic renditions, interview clips and even a few concert cuts from the original tour. And speaking of road trips, the troubadour is currently on a 20-city trek that doesn't just recall this seminal CD and all her career chestnuts prior to 1988, but also reunites many of the original band members from the initial incarnation.

The band sounds better than ever
A solo acoustic Grant opened with an earthy interpretation of "Father's Eyes" at Branson, MO's beautiful Mansion Theatre on Saturday, November 15, and her backers soon stepped on stage to accompany the gracious performer for nearly two hours. With eight players behind her, it was a constant wall of sound anchored by the dual guitar stylings of Chris Rodriguez (Keith Urban, Kenny Loggins) and Jerry McPherson (Faith Hill), alongside famed keyboardist Chris Eaton (also known for his solo recording career). Given all these session stars' incredibly busy schedules, Grant acknowledged it was nothing short of a miracle to get them back together and made the most of their prowess across hearty renditions of "Wait For the Healing," "Love of Another Kind" and "Shadows."

Infatuated with the old school
As the evening progressed, the headliner half-heartedly apologized for not exploring anything beyond '88, but if the audience's howls of excitement were any indication, no one seemed to mind. Though it was incredibly risky to omit major mainstream smashes like "Baby, Baby," "I Will Remember You," "Every Heartbeat," "House of Love" and "Takes a Little Time" (to cite a mere handful), she more than made up for their absences by dusting off several golden oldies that have rarely been played since becoming a crossover sensation.

Amongst those treasured deep cuts were Lead Me On alums like the punchy "1974," the mandolin-infused "Saved By Love" and the oh so gloriously '80s "All Right." Despite dating back even earlier in that decade, a timeless flavor permeated a worship segment that included heartfelt renditions of "El Shaddai," "Sing Your Praise to the Lord" and "All I Ever Have to Be." Even so, there was plenty of electricity to come thanks to a blistering recollections of "Lead Me On," "Find a Way" and "Alright" (complete with some extend jamming from the aforementioned all-stars).~

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An encore for the ages, while looking forward to the future
Grant joked she could literally keep the audience well into the wee hours of the morning and even hinted she might, by starting off the encore with "Stay For Awhile." She also asked if anyone would mind hearing a new song or two (even if that meant breaking the "nothing after 1988 rule") and suggested this Lead Me On anniversary is simultaneously bringing back sweet memories and having a reinvigorating effect on current songwriting.

Two yet-to-be titled semi-acoustic tunes were flanked firmly in the present, suggesting God's continued faithfulness as one faces the growing pains of going from youth to adulthood, but were also lighthearted pleas for ongoing innocence and enthusiasm during the aging process. Those tracks were juxtaposed with her album standard "Say Once More," which was hands down the most poignant flashback of the trip down memory lane. Outside of that anthem being one of the most beautiful love ballads in the entertainer's varied history, it struck a particularly passionate nerve with the thousands gathered, especially this writer and someone extremely special he can now call a fiancé. (The full scoop on the latter moment is coming soon via the road blog featured at www.amygrant.com).

Though the night ended with an organic cover of the Pete Seeger-penned Byrds' classic "Turn! Turn! Turn!," the lyrics of "a time to be born/ a time to die/ a time to plant/ a time to reap/ a time to kill/ a time to heal" (straight out of Ecclesiastes) brought this tour's dual themes of reflection and moving forward full circle. As for the immediate future, Grant's HD television special "Holiday Celebration on Ice" debuts on NBC Sunday, November 30 (featuring Olympic skaters Nancy Kerrigan and Viktor Petrenko) followed by a December Christmas tour with husband and country A-lister Vince Gill. But before leaving the stage at the Branson show, she promised new material in 2009, which if these previews were any indication, will springboard yet another expressive and ingenious chapter in an extraordinary career.


About the Writer

Andy Argyrakis is a Chicago-based entertainment writer/photographer who appears in the Chicago Tribune, Illinois Entertainer, Daily Journal, Concert Livewire, Hear/Say Magazine and Image Chicago (to name few). His record label writing credits include Warner Brothers, Atlantic, Curb, EMI and Universal, with additional photo credits for Fuse TV, Live Nation, Nikon, Pollstar, Celebrity Access, Paste Magazine, MTV.com and Vibe.com. He's also the author/narrator of "Access Matthews" (an audio CD tracing the career of Dave Matthews Band) and spends considerable time on tour, including outings with Arlo Guthrie, The Guess Who, Madina Lake (on Linkin Park's Projekt Revolution) and Gospel Music Channel's very own "Gospel Dream" (where he served as season one judge).

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