By Amy Sondova While my list of favorite bands and artists grows ever longer, there is one man who has remained at the top since his solo album debut in 2003—that man is Derek Webb. She Must and Shall Go Free rocked my sensibilities about what should and should not be said in songs by a Christian singer, especially one who had been in Caedmon’s Call. However, the more I listened to songs like “Wedding Dress” (which uses the word “whore”) and “Beloved” and the title track, the more I thought, “I love this!” The music started a change in me.
Since 2003, Derek’s other albums—I See Things Upside Down, Mockingbird, and his latest, The Ringing Bell—have been in permanent music rotation. To me, this guy is a musical genius right up there with Bob Dylan and Reese Roper (Five Iron Frenzy, Brave Saint Saturn, Roper). So naturally, I wanted to see him perform live to drink in the whole picture. But every time I planned to see Derek Webb, there was a problem—the last which caused me to fly to Atlanta just to see a sold-out show that Derek played with his wife, Sandra McCracken. OK, so I was actually there for a youth conference, but I did twist my ankle walking back to the car after learning I wouldn’t see Derek yet again.
Perusing Derek Webb’s website, I made a startling discovery! Derek would be playing only 40 minutes away at Calvary Church. It was a sign! My time had finally come! But I didn’t believe I would really get to see him until I entered the doors of the church and heard Derek’s vocals resonating from behind closed doors. Apparently, he was giving the “postmodern” church service a taste of what was to come an hour later.
Low-key and dimly lit, the concert started a little after 8 PM with an opening performance by Derek’s friend, Joe Bassett. Finally, Derek took the stage in his typical white shirt/blue jeans ensemble. Singing at least one song from every album, he’s just as powerful in person as he is on his recordings. His set included “Nobody Loves Me,” “Love Is Not Against the Law,” “I Hate Everything (But You),” “I Wanna Marry You All Over Again,” “Savior on Capitol Hill” and one of my personal favorites, “Wedding Dress.”
Before performing “Name,” Derek mentioned that the song was the closet thing he’s ever had to a hit since starting his solo career. Featured on “Grey’s Anatomy,” the song was over a “two and a half minute montage of fornicating adulterers,” explained Derek with a slight hint of sarcastic wit. The crowd laughed nervously and Derek dived into his song. Talking about everything from the upcoming election to his wife, Derek wasn’t particularly loquacious, but he was charming as he picked songs on a whim.
For an hour, an audience was invited to depart from the worries of the world and get lost in songs about rethinking and reshaping the world. Derek made it sound not only believable, but encouraged that it was possible for us to help others experience God’s peace (shalom) on earth.
In fact, Derek’s so committed to social justice, easing the burden of the poor, and other causes, that he’s joining forces with Sara Groves, Brandon Heath, Sandra McCracken, and Charlie Peacock for the Art*Music*Justice Tour this fall. For more information, visit the tour’s site and make sure you get the chance to catch a show. Because as Brandon Heath said in a recent interview (read here), “Besides the fact that Derek Webb’s on it, Sandra McCracken, his wife, is on it, too. That’s the other reason you should go.” I agree wholeheartedly.
You should also check out Derek Webb’s other cause, NoiseTrade, a site that allows independent artists to freely disperse their music to listeners. By referring three friends to the site or donating an amount for an album, you can download an album from various artists including Derek Webb, Sandra McCracken, Sixpence None the Richer, and Alli Rogers. You can also visit Derek’s fansite at DerekWebb.net (and, no, it’s not one of my secret sites on the side!)