I have been to a lot of southern gospel concerts, over the years but had never seen a Bill Gaither concert till last night at Ford Park in Beaumont, Texas.
My wife Rhonda and me thoroughly enjoyed the show.
The show featured the Gaither Vocal Band, with the Nelons, Martins, Gene McDonald and Angela Primm appearing before the Gaither Vocal Band took the stage.
Gene McDonald the former bass singer for the Florida Boys sang a solo, which is unusual for a bass singer, but he pulled it off, with no problem at all.
The Nelons, Martins, Angela Primm and Gene McDonald finished their acts and then the stage went dark and the Gaither Vocal Band started singing their first song. It was exciting when the stage lights were turned back on and there was the Gaither Vocal Band bigger than life.
Mark Lowry the comedian-baritone of the group carried the show in my estimation, with his humor and him singing his hit song Mary Did You Know. Lowry said that was his only hit, so he was going to sing it. Lowry was the consummate comedian, with his exchanges with Bill Gaither one of the highlights of the concert.
Gaither hosted the concert and did an excellent job of introducing the singers, while also singing bass for the Gaither Vocal Band. The 77-year-old Gaither didn’t show his age as he didn’t seem to tire, as the concert which lasted close to three hours went on.
They did sing a lot of songs, that I hadn’t heard of, so assume it was new material. But that didn’t matter, since whatever song they were singing at the time didn’t matter, because of their delivery of the songs.
Kevin Williams the guitarist transformed into a pitchman shortly before the intermission, as he showed the various products for sale at the product table, by all the performers on the show.
He held up one product and said it was the Beaumont special and Bill Gaither interjected, that it will be the Tulsa, Oklahoma special tomorrow night.
A highlight of the show was when the audience sang along on a song that was sung by a lady, who was not introduced. The song was I Stand Amazed In The Presence and it was a touching moment to hear the huge audience join in singing the song.
Some highlights of previous homecoming shows were shown on the two screens. The audience applauded when the late Vestal Goodman was showing singing from a past homecoming concert.
David Phelps was featured on He is Alive and when he hit those high notes, with his tenor voice it had a huge impact on the audience. He stood out among all the singers, but they all sang well, when they were being featured.
The Gaither classic The King is Coming was sung near the end of the show and it reached a crescendo on the last verse when Michael English started the last verse:
I can hear the chariots rumble, I can see the marching throng
The flurry of God’s trumpet spells the end of sin and wrong
Regal robes are now unfolding, heaven’s grandstand now in place
Heaven’s choir is now assembled, starts to sing Amazing Grace
Then the whole group sang the chorus as it reached an even higher crescendo, as they finished the song.
It was a great night for southern gospel fans, but also a good night for those who like contemporary music.
Gaither Vocal Band
The first configuration of the Gaither Vocal Band when it was formed in 1981, with Steve Green, Gary McSpadden, Lee Young and Bill Gaither.
There have been a total of 16 configurations in the 32 years of the Gaither Vocal Band.
Three of the four current members of the group, excluding Bill Gaither have left the group for solo careers, but have all returned and the current configuration started in 2009.
Timeline For Current Members
Michael English – Was a member of the group from 1985-1994 and returned in 2009, for a total of 15 years with the group.
Mark Lowry – First joined the group in 1988 and remained with the group through 2001, then returned in 2009 for a total of 19 years with the Gaither Vocal Band.
Wes Hampton – Joined the group in 2005 and has been with the group for nine consecutive years.
David Phelps – First stint with the Gaither Vocal Band was from 1997-2005 and rejoined the group in 2009, for a total of 14 years with the group.
All four singers are powerhouse vocalists on their own, but magic happens when they combine their voices, as they had letter-perfect harmony last night.
It was a long show, but still wish it had been longer, because this was a night to remember.