Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Recap: Jamel Strong & Message Anniversary Concert

..."a momentous occasion, very spirited and enthusiastic"

These are some of the word that help sum up the past seventh anniversary celebration for Jamel Strong & Message, held last Sunday at the Pentecostal Lighthouse Church in Huntsville, AL. Besides a long wait for the show to begin and an endless soundcheck that bothered most of the audience, the concert began almost an hour later with Wess Morgan, from Hendersonville, Tennessee, providing a few songs of praise-and-worship and a few gospel selections from his newly-released independent project. The audience was overwhelmed and experienced a culture-shock when they noticed that Morgan was Caucasian - but belted notes and tossed out a few vocal aerobic rolls effortlessly. Even the movements of the brother had the audience on their feet. He closed with a rocking traditional number, "He Brought Me Out", that took us all to church.

After he settled, Jamel Strong & Message prepared to set the stage and revealed a spirited set of songs saturated with dynamic praise-and-worship choruses, energetic vocals and vibrant solo spots from the group. Standouts included the calypso-driven "Clap", the uptempo contemporary jam "I Will" (that bears a VaShawn Mitchell resemblance to "Where The Praises Are") and the worship ballad "My Hands Are Lifted Up". The audience was right there - singing along with most of the cuts and showed their love and appreciation for their local hero.

Nikki Ross was also in the audience and was asked to bless the masses with her unique and versatile pipes. After delivering a warm monologue, she expressed her love to God singing "Available To You"; which went over well. Fifteen seconds after singing the melody, Ross branches off into her aerobic, jazzy expressions and showcased why she is so difficult to mimic.

Afterwards, Dathan Thigpen & Holy Nation of Jackson, MS took the stage in their fall colored outfits and plaid uniforms. While they were energetic, the audience had a hard time receiving them because of the loudness of the musical tracks and screaming parts. Lots of their songs were wordy and featured plenty of chord changes and plenty of parts. Most of the songs really got irritating when the choir inverted their harmonies to mind-blowing notes. And with a small group like Holy Nation, it's easier to hear distinctive problems that way. Personally, they had great enthusiasm and compares to the hype that currently surrounds Tye Tribbett & G.A. - even down to their look. But sometimes too much can be too much and this was the case with Thigpen's group. Of the songs they performed, "Wonderful", "Clap Your Hands" and "We've Come To Praise The Lord" were best remembered - songs from their recent project, "Get Up: Vol. 1".

Tyscot recording artist and renowned songwriter VaShawn Mitchell teased the crowd with a few of his songs as well as an old-school throwback to some treasured congregational hymns like "He's A Wonder (In My Soul)" and "Yes, Yes, Yes". He flew through "My Worship Is For Real" and for several minutes, the audience was caught up in musicless intimate worship. He finally closed with "No Way" from his recent project, "Believe In Your Dreams" with Thigpen's Holy Nation providing background vocals.

Around 9:00 p.m., the Anointed Pace Sisters, minus LaShun, was the last act to grace the platform and ultimately wowed the crowd with their clear, clean, cutting-edge vocals. After all of these years, the passion in their ministry had not changed and they revealed just that in their song selection that evening. Strong announced that the Anointed Pace Sisters, also known as T.A.P.S., were releasing their new album that night and were going to tease us with songs from that same project. Songs like the infectious "It's Already Done", the moving ballad "The Words You Said" (penned by Phyllis Pace), and "High Praise" were well received and revealed the possibilities of a very promising album.

Overall, the night had its share of glorious moments and memorable highlights. It was an anniversary to be proud of. And we were happy to be a part of that event. We just hope next time that things will start on time.


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