From A Fan's Perspective
2 Friends Concert Review
by Bob Williams
February 16, 2011
Expectations were high for the 2 Friends Concert in Jacksonville Florida. The opportunity to see two musical artists of such high caliber perform together in the wonderful ambiance and history of the Florida Theatre was something to look forward to.
The Florida Theatre, originally opened in 1927 and renovated in 1983, is abundant in famous acts it has hosted over the years. Elvis Presley headlined one of his first concert appearances on an indoor stage at the Florida Theatre in 1956.
The history of the venue brings perspective to the past-to-present evolution of Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant. Both Amy and Michael have a rich history touring together in their early career years and as individual artists going their separate ways. Now, after twenty-plus years they will be performing together again in a concert both reminiscent of times past and times present.
The concert began shortly after 8PM with both Michael and Amy singing a few songs together including Amy's 1986 hit song Stay for Awhile from her Collection album. The next song set was all Amy and her band. Baby, Baby and El Shaddai stood out as favorites although Amy was on her game with every song. Amy's sidelights and commentary between songs added to the personalization of her music. She is a natural for connecting with her audience.
After Amy's solo set, Michael came back on stage to accompany her with Emmanuel and Lead Me On. There is a musical magic present when Michael and Amy perform together. It seems automatic and genuine and it works.
Before intermission, Michael Olson spoke on behalf of Compassion International about sponsoring children in need throughout the world. Because of the passion both Michael Olson and Michael W. Smith have for this cause, over 100,000 children have been sponsored from their concert efforts.
Following an intermission of about 15 minutes and a change of band equipment, both Michael and Amy take the stage once again. Several classic songs were mixed with some current favorites. A highlight was How to Say Goodbye from Michael's Stand album which was an emotional journey for Amy as she sang along. As a sidenote, Amy co-wrote How to Say Goodbye with Michael. It was obvious that both had an emotional connection with this song, along with most of us in the audience.
After Somewhere, Somehow from Michael's Change Your World album, Amy departed the stage and it was Michael's turn to take the audience down memory lane once again. Secret Ambition from the 1988 I 2 (eye) album was as powerful as ever. It is that enduring type of song that makes it a classic. The blast from past continued with Rocketown from the 1986 Big Picture album.
Michael, like Amy, is a natural at creating an audience relationship that goes beyond the music. Between songs Michael connects with the audience by telling stories and offering tidbits of information about life and career related events.
One story particularly funny was about a 12-year-old girl who recognized him in public one day and came up to him Š I won't finish the story here until after the tour is over so I don't spoil it for those who will be going to one of the 2 Friends concerts.
Sprinkled in with past classics were current favorites including Wonder, the title track from Michael's latest album and a new favorite of mine. Another song from the Wonder album that I believe is destined to become one of those timeless classics is Welcome Home. This is an amazing song that I see as the sequel to another of Michael's unforgettable mainstay songs Friends. Welcome Home was an obvious emotional experience for Michael as he performed it. Welcome Home is a necessary and meaningful story set to music that so many people will connect to.
Following Michael's solo set, Amy returned to the stage. Michael did an abbreviated version of Healing Rain, the title track from the 2004 album, and a favorite from recent years. My only complaint is that Michael did not perform the full version of Healing Rain, which can have a wonderful extraordinary presence, especially when experienced live.
A special surprise was announced toward the end of the concert. Michael had a new granddaughter. Esther Ayana Smith was born to son Tyler and Sarah Smith about 9PM this night during the concert.
Agnus Dei followed to wrap up the concert. Of course, the audience knew what to expect for the encore. Might it be Friends? Well, yes. A true moment in history as Michael and Amy sang the song that will never end, Friends. The past and present had come full circle as does the circle of life.
The concert ended shortly after 11PM, making it three hours long (including the intermission). It was essentially two concerts with two great bands and two headliners. Add to that the magic and performance chemistry on stage and you get an extraordinary evening.
The combination of Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant, and the Florida Theatre came together to create the perfect storm of a wonderful and amazing five-star concert. *****